‘BC Effect’ tourism campaign targets international visitors as industry hopes 2022 marks beginning of recovery

BC’s tourism sector is hopeful 2022 will be the year the industry’s recovery from the pandemic’s impact begins in earnest following eased travel restrictions, and is launching a strategic multi-million-dollar marketing campaign aimed at enticing critical international visitors back to the province.

The $6.7-million campaign developed by Destination BC in conjunction with Indigenous Tourism BC is branded “The BC Effect – Find Yourself,” and showcases many of the province’s iconic natural features, such as rainforest and mountains, along with video featuring a poem by Haida writer Cohen Isberg.

Vice president of global marketing for Destination BC Maya Lange said in 2019, over 50 per cent of the industry’s visitor revenue came from international visitors, though they only made up 25 per cent of the volume.

She said the campaign will target key markets, like the UK, Australia, California, Washington, and Ontario.

“It is based on scientific evidence that nature has a healing effect on people,” she said. “Our early indications are that we can expect that 2022 will be the beginning of recovery and what looks to be sustained recovery over the next few years.”

She noted this year’s cruise season is also expected to be strong. Vancouver is anticipating more than 300 sailings to come to the city this year.

“There are a lot of unknowns, obviously, for the year ahead. I think we will all watch very closely how our provincial health officer continues to track new variants and continues to track vaccination rates,” she said. “It will take time, but I think the key thing is we are ready.”

Lange said the tourism industry was worth more than $20 billion dollars in 2019 and employed about 145,000 people. She said those numbers dropped by about 70 per cent during the pandemic.

On West Cordova Street in Vancouver, Tom Murphy at the Mounted Police Post gift shop said sales took a dive in the spring of 2020.

“We had a tough go of it for that year,” he said. “Then in 2021, it picked up some, as people started to travel a bit more.”

Murphy’s store is located right between the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place and the shops and restaurants of Gastown. He said last year there were visitors from eastern provinces who had never come to Vancouver before, which was good to see. But in the winter, Omicron brought another slowdown. Now, he’s looking forward to what the rest of 2022 will bring, including the return of cruise ships and more international visitors.

“They’re very important to us,” he said. “We’re expecting a real nice year, and a nice summer. We’re hoping for it.”

The loss of international visitors over the past two years has also been significant for the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

Vice president of sales and marketing for the Capilano Group Sue Kaffka said it has been especially noticeable in the summer.

“We are primarily in the summertime an international visitor’s dream holiday, especially the cruise ships, which are hopefully coming back in good numbers,” she said. “We don’t know what to expect in numbers, but everything is a positive now and we’re thinking people are ready to travel.”

Kaffka said the company has already been seeing a lot more inter-provincial travel for spring break, and they’re expecting a “robust” season ahead.

“Obviously, it’s not all going to happen in one year,” she said. “But we are optimistic about a better summer, and the more visitors that come into BC, the better.”

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