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Tourism numbers flat but outlook good

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The B.C. tourism industry experienced little if any growth this spring due to reduced international visitors, according to the province’s tourism marketing corporation.

In May, statistics from customs-entry points indicate that the number of overnight visitors increased by one per cent over the same time last year.

Visitors from the U.S. actually increased by 3.7 per cent in May, but travellers from Asia and Europe decreased by 5.3 and 6.1 per cent respectively.

"We’re very concerned about what’s happening in the global marketplace" said Tourism B.C. president and CEO Rod Harris. (But) we’re pleased to see growth in the U.S. market."

Harris noted that Tourism B.C. has recently increased its "Super, Natural" marketing efforts in the U.S. through a number of new programs.

The province recorded close to 450,000 overnight visitors in May.

The slowdown trend continued from April, which saw a 0.7 per cent overall decline in the number of overnight visitors as compared to April 2000.

"Although April customs-entry figures dropped slightly, we’re still seeing positive growth in our year-to-date figures," said Tourism B.C. chair Mike Duggan.

The province has seen a total of more than 1.6-million visitors since January 2001, a 2.8 per cent increase over last year.

Tourism B.C. attributed the April decline to economic slowdowns in Asia and the devaluation of the Euro against the Canadian dollar.

The only silver lining to April’s cloudy number’s was a slight 0.7 per cent increase in U.S. visitors.

Meanwhile, the 2010 Olympic bid and the new Liberal government will help give the province’s tourism industry and economy a shot in the arm, according to the Council of Tourism Associations of B.C.

B.C.’s tourism industry contributed $4.5-billion to the provincial economy last year, a 3.9 per cent increase from 1999.

All sectors of the industry – which includes recreation and amusement; finance, insurance and real estate: food and beverage; transportation and communication; wholesale and retail sales; and leisure and personal services – experienced growth.

According to statistics from the B.C. government, last year’s numbers are the strongest seen in the industry since 1995.

Tourism employs more than 100,000 people across the province.

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