European and Asia/Pacific markets continued to make positive gains in March 2005, although overall international travel to British Columbia decreased slightly, with overnight customs entries declining 1.2 per cent in March compared to the same month last year, and year-to-date entries decreasing 1.6 per cent to 770,069.
In addition, particularly strong growth came from Mexico, which exhibited the highest percentage increase among all markets at 160.2 per cent to 5,927 entries as compared to March 2004. However, overnight customs entries from the United States declined by 7.3 per cent to 190,677 in March, while year-to-date entries dipped 4.9 per cent to 534,968. The US market continues to play a significant role in British Columbia, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of all overnight customs entries to the province in March.
"Though it`s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for the initial decline in the US market, we believe one factor is the reduced number of conference delegates," said Rod Harris, president and CEO of Tourism British Columbia. "We know that both the Victoria and Vancouver convention centres reported fewer delegates compared to March last year. We also saw decreases from the Washington and Oregon markets, which we believe is due to limited snow in the lower mainland and Vancouver Island."
Europe posted a substantial growth of 23.8 per cent to 28,323 entries in March 2005 and year-to-date entries grew 15.8 per cent, with most of the European markets exhibiting positive increases. The United Kingdom and Germany, two of the largest European markets, both demonstrated strong growth in March. For instance, the United Kingdom grew 26.6 per cent to 16,932 entries; while Germany rose by 27.2 per cent to 3,465 entries as compared to the same month last year. Combined, these two countries accounted for nearly 75 per cent of total overnight customs entries from Europe in March 2005.
Customs entries from Asia and the South Pacific also showed an increase of 6.3 per cent to 52,885 entries in March, while year-to-date entries grew 2.0 per cent. Taiwan and South Korea - two key markets for the province - exhibited growth compared to March 2004. Entries from Taiwan rose 9.2 per cent to 5,862; while South Korea grew 10.2 per cent to 7,575 entries. However, entries from Japan and China decreased by 2.5 per cent and 5.9 per cent, respectively. In the South Pacific, both Australia and New Zealand exhibited increases in March. Australia grew 14.2 per cent to 5,389 entries; and New Zealand rose 19.7 per cent to 996 entries.
"With phase one of the new generation of HelloBC.com website completed and launched, we are looking to stimulate new and renewed visitor interest from the United States," said Mike Duggan, Chair of Tourism British Columbia. "And with Europe and Asia leading the way, we`re looking forward to seeing growth in other key markets in 2005."
Overnight customs entries are non-residents entering Canada, recorded by province of entry. Data is prepared and distributed by Statistics Canada and compiled monthly by Tourism BC. This information serves as one of the key indicators for tourism in the province. Additional data is available from Tourism BC at various times throughout the year, including revenue estimates and annual summaries.