*Disclaimer: this article was written in April based on available data and information available at that time.
Travel Trends from BC’s Key International Markets
While international leisure travel to Canada restarted last summer, international visitors still faced barriers with pre-entry PCR testing requirements, which was a costly prohibitor for certain markets. On February 28, 2022, we saw signals of hope, as Canada began to ease its pre-entry requirements by allowing a rapid antigen test for travellers, after which BC saw strong visitation over the Spring Break. Then, as of April 1, Canada removed the requirement for any pre-entry testing for travellers arriving from outside of Canada. The proverbial ‘flood gates’ opened, booking inquiries soared, and Destination BC launched a comprehensive $6.7 million global marketing campaign to re-invigorate travel immediately and into the next year from key international and long-haul markets.
Across the board, international visitors are looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family, to staying longer in a destination, to exploring wide open spaces, and to having more meaningful and deeper cultural experiences after feeling closed off and disconnected for the past two years. They’re seeking a blend of urban and nature—both of which BC boasts in abundance—and travellers who prioritize sustainability and responsibility now value those tenets more than ever. While it is long-awaited and welcome news that our borders are open, the competition for destinations is fierce. While the world vies for visitors and tourism dollars, where can BC focus its efforts in the short term for the most immediate and high-yield impact?
On February 21, Australia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated tourists, after nearly two years of the world’s strictest and longest-running pandemic travel restrictions, during which Australians were also mostly barred from leaving. This was particularly welcome news for Canada and BC, which have long been seen by that market as a safe place to visit. So much so, in fact, that Australian morning show, Sunrise TV, broadcasted live from destinations around British Columbia, re-introducing their viewers to the incredible tourism experiences on offer throughout the province.
- Mid-priced hotel/motel (45%)
- Luxury hotel/resort (35%)
Average trip length in BC:
- 4 nights
“Australians want to immerse themselves in a destination.”
Australian visitors to BC are looking to have authentic and meaningful experiences with the destinations they visit, such as sampling local cuisine, learning about different cultures, and experiencing nature through natural attractions, hiking, or wildlife and marine life viewing. They want to immerse themselves in a destination, rather than just visit, and connect profoundly with the places and people that make a destination unique—‘live like a local’ is the driving theme for this market. After two years of pent-up demand and millions of hours of banked vacation time nationwide, and with tourism experiences that appeal directly to their travel motivators, BC is well-positioned to gain back its share of the Australian market.
The UK has been a high-performance, long-standing visitor market for BC, and was our third largest international market in 2019. Travel demand from the UK has remained strong, and was the first international market—along with Germany—where Destination BC re-introduced consumer marketing since the start of the pandemic, in September 2021.
- Mid-priced hotel/motel (41%)
- Luxury hotel/resort (30%)
Average trip length in BC:
- 9 nights
While the UK market tends to prioritize similar activities to visitors from Australia—taking in nature and savouring local fare—the way in which they prefer to do these differs. UK visitors often seek comfort while visiting somewhere new. They are more comfortable travelling with others, whether it be group travel, with a guide, or on an organized tour. And, while they value cultural experiences, they will often come prepared with a list of must-see attractions, rather than opting for spontaneity to lead the way.
Germany is BC’s other top-performing European market, with the majority of visitation being driven by holiday/leisure travel and visiting friends and family. Following the opening of Canadian borders for leisure travel last summer, BC saw strong signals of demand from this market, which continued into the fall and winter, and has since picked up again since travel restrictions eased.
- Mid-priced hotel/motel (47%)
- Budget hotel/motel (23%)
Average trip length in BC:
- 3 nights
“The German market is comprised of many group tourists.”
German visitors to BC value authenticity, seeking out opportunities to learn about and absorb themselves in the history and culture of the places they visit. While most carry this out through nature-based activities and sampling local food and drink, (sound familiar?), many also opt for road trips, eager to experience a variety of destinations throughout their trip. Most notably, the German market is comprised of many group tourists, who want to indulge in the wonders of new sights, smells, and experiences with others. And, with the group value in mind, a significant number of visitors choose to book their trips via a travel agent or tour operator, particularly for flights and accommodations. Businesses should work to maintain and invest in relationships with the travel trade to best make the sale with this market.
United States (California & Washington)
With its proximity, diverse transportation options, and shorter booking windows, the US has long held its position as the #1 international market for BC, and continues to be one of BC’s best, most immediate recovery opportunities.
- Mid-priced hotel/motel (35%)
- Luxury hotel/resort (34%)
Average trip length:
- 5 nights
While many may think of Americans coming north to visit friends and family, 50% make the trip to BC for holiday, leisure, or recreation, enjoying activities like sampling local cuisine, hiking or walking in nature, visiting natural attractions, destination sightseeing, and shopping. While a detailed breakdown of US visitors to BC was included in the spring issue of InnFocus, it’s important that the US remains top-of-mind when we talk about international travel.
What We’re Monitoring
As always, Destination BC is continuing to monitor the situation around the world, from COVID developments, to rising fuel and food prices, and the devastating war in Ukraine, and teams are ready to shift marketing activities quickly if and as needed. We’re also monitoring other key markets, such as China and Mexico, which have historically been strong markets for BC, but continue to face travel impacts from the pandemic, such as government-imposed travel restrictions and slower vaccination rollouts. Both China and Mexico typically have a higher average spend per person and lengthy average stay of 28.1 nights and 20.1 nights respectively, demonstrating their importance in the eventual recovery of BC’s tourism industry.
Destination BC will continue to assess the most appropriate time to invest, to monitor any changes to travel behaviours, and to be ready to compete on the global stage as BC competitively vies for international visitors once again.
To stay up-to-date on the latest information as it relates to travel, markets, marketing and more, please consult the following resources from Destination BC:
- View our Market Profiles & Market Research for more information on our key visitor segments
- Learn more about the current global marketing campaign, The BC Effect
- Visit DestinationBC.ca for the latest research and analytics
- Send an email to Marketing.Plan@destinationbc.ca to request a copy of Destination BC’s marketing strategy
- Subscribe to Destination BC’s e-newsletter, Directions, for updates on our marketing campaigns, tourism partnerships, new research, and more.