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BC’s tourism sector will gradually recover after taking an extraordinary hit. Rebuilding the industry will require support measures but should also include smart capital investments and forward-looking strategic planning.

It is self-evident that the pandemic is wreaking havoc in BC’s tourism industry. As one of the province’s foundational export industries, tourism is bearing a disproportionate share of the pain from this global calamity.

Tourism is one of the province’s leading export sectors. Travel to British Columbia by non-residents is considered to be a service export because it results in money flowing into the province from other jurisdictions—other countries in the case of international visitors. This yields export “earnings” just as selling merchandise to other countries results in money flowing in from external sources.

Domestic tourism activity, of course, is also an important part of the industry—even more so when international travel is restricted. However, the domestic element is smaller. Sure, some British Columbia residents have re-aligned their travel budgets towards domestic tourism experiences. The same is true for travellers from other provinces. But this reorientation is also being dampened by mobility restrictions within and between provinces and the reality is that many people are reluctant to travel at all. Even if domestic tourism activity were not heavily curtailed and the shift towards domestic tourism was substantial, it would not come close to offsetting the economic loss associated with the complete collapse of international tourism.

We all know international travel has slowed to a trickle in the last year. Still, looking at the numbers is shocking.

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By Ken Peacock, Business Council of British Columbia

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