IT’S been another banner year for tourism in Vancouver. Recent data released by Tourism Vancouver shows 2016 year-end overnight visitation exceeded 10 million people, a new best for Metro Vancouver’s tourism industry and the third record-breaking year in a row.
Vancouver’s strong tourism year succeeded due to a combination of factors. Key among them are Tourism Vancouver’s sales and marketing initiatives in 11 key countries worldwide; the inaugural World Rugby Sevens match at BC Place Stadium, which drew significant visitation to the city in March; strong convention, cruise and festival seasons; and strategic partnerships with Destination British Columbia, Destination Canada, the Vancouver Hotel Destination Association, Vancouver Airport Authority, the Vancouver Convention Centre and others.
External factors, such as a Canadian exchange rate favourable to international travellers and the announcement that Canada would lift visa requirements for Mexico in late 2016, also played a significant role in increasing visitation. Vancouver fared best among major Canadian cities with year-end data showing Vancouver had higher hotel occupancy, and higher average daily rate, than Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
Vancouver’s 2016 Tourism Highlights:
* Star markets. Vancouver’s largest international travel market, the United States, which brought 2.3 million overnight visitors to Vancouver last year, is currently registering exceptional 9.8 percent growth over 2015. Other star markets are Mexico (+33.4%), Australia (+21.1%), China (+18.2%), the UK (+17.3%) and South Korea (+14.6%). China remains Vancouver’s largest overseas visitor market with more than 280,000 total visitors in 2016.
* Strong convention year. Vancouver hosted 29 citywide conventions in 2016 that attracted some 160,000 attendees. Highlights include the Professional Convention Management Association’s 2016 meeting, Convening Leaders, which brought close to 4,000 influential meeting professionals to the city for what was termed the “biggest site inspection in Vancouver’s history”; the TED Conference (1,800 attendees); Million Dollar Round Table’s annual meeting (more than 11,000 attendees); the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting (8,000 attendees); and the American Academy of Neurology 2016 annual meeting (9,500 attendees). These conventions all took place at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
* Rugby fever. The World Rugby Sevens held its inaugural year in Canada at BC Place Stadium in March 2016, drawing a crowd of more than 60,000 that exceeded expected attendance.
* July, August and September were top for tourism. July, August and September were 2016’s strongest months for Vancouver’s accommodation sector. In July, daily occupancy in Metro Vancouver hotels was 94.1 percent.
* Vancouver’s cruise season remained robust. Port Metro Vancouver welcomed 826,820 passengers on 28 ships making 228 voyages in 2016. Each time a cruise ship arrives in Vancouver, it stimulates more than $2 million in economic activity.
* Vancouver was honoured with a slew of awards and accolades. In 2016, Vancouver was recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the world’s best cities; Skytrax World Airport Awards named YVR the best airport in North America for an unprecedented seventh consecutive year; The Guardian recognized English Bay as one of the world’s best city beaches; Forbes named the BMO Vancouver Marathon among the world’s top marathons worth travelling for; Mercer Quality of Living Survey once again named Vancouver the most livable city in North America; the prestigious Watkins Research Group Meeting and Planners Survey ranked Vancouver top convention city in Canada and second in North America, among other honours; and the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranked Vancouver the top city in North America for international meetings.
It is estimated that the tourism industry in Vancouver contributes approximately $4.4 billion to the Metro Vancouver economy annually and provides more than 70,000 full-time jobs.