Tourism is economic force in British Columbia with 6.1 million visits: minister

Tourism is economic force in British Columbia with 6.1 million visits: minister

Victoria has been named Canada's most romantic city for the seventh year in a row, according to Amazon Canada annual list. Photo courtesy Tourism Victoria.

File photo: Tourism Victoria.

Tourism in British Columbia is outpacing provincial economic growth as a record-breaking number of tourists visit the region, the tourism minister says.

Lisa Beare told tourism operators at their annual conference Friday that the industry added $9 billion to B.C’s gross domestic product in 2017, well above the province’s economic growth of four per cent that year, marking an increase of more than 6.7 per cent from a year earlier.

“It goes to show people really value the unique, authentic experiences you can get in B.C.,” Beare said in an interview.

Tourism revenues increased by 41 per cent between 2007 to 2017, she said, adding the numbers reveal the sector added the largest value to the provincial economy over that decade, relative to the oil and gas, mining, forestry, logging and fishing industries.

“We’re the third-largest industry,” Beare said. “We definitely anticipate increased growth here in B.C.”

Beare said the government forecasts tourism to grow by six per cent annually for the next several years. The government’s recent budget forecast the province’s economy to increase by 2.4 per cent this year and 2.3 per cent next year.

“B.C. is a destination of choice for people,” she said, adding the province’s natural beauty attracts visitors from around the world.

Beare said the industry employs more than 137,000 people and their wages are rising by almost seven per cent annually.

She said there are more than 19,000 tourism-related businesses that include over 400 Indigenous tourism experiences.

More than six million tourists visited B.C. in 2018, said Beare, adding that’s a record and a 6.4 per cent increase over 2017.

Beare told tourism operators at their annual conference the government will implement a plan to guide year-round tourism growth and protect the environment.

Industry spokesman Glenn Mandziuk said in a statement operators support government efforts to ensure people, culture and the environment are hallmarks of tourism policy in B.C.

The Canadian Press

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