Snow conditions in January, but also other factors, including but not exclusively COVID-19, were responsible for fewer non-residents entering British Columbia. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Snow and other factors including COVID-19 responsible for fewer international visitors in early 2020

Notably, visits from China rose just before travel restrictions

New figures allow the interpretation that COVID-19 was a factor, but not the main factor in slowing down international travel into British Columbia earlier this year.

Figures from Statistics Canada show the number of non-residents entering Canada through British Columbia dropped 4.7 per cent in January compared to the previous month for a total of 694,000 with almost 73 per cent coming from the United States.

One cited factor in the decline of travel was the snowstorm that hit southern British Columbia, impacting car as well as air travel from the United States. More locally, other developments have impacted travel from the United States, including reduced airline service between Victoria International Airport and destinations in the United States.

RELATED: Number of U.S. passengers coming through Victoria International Airport down by 30 per cent

Notably, the number of travellers from China, the initial geographic epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, actually rose in January. Across Canada, the arrivals from China increased 3.3 per cent over December to 64,000 due in part from additional travel because of Chinese New Year.

As Statistics Canada says in an accompanying analysis, year-over-year comparisons must account for the actual date of the Chinese New Year. It falls anywhere from Jan. 21 to Feb. 21 each year and travel from China to Canada shifts accordingly.

RELATED: Canada to close borders to most foreigners, but not to U.S., to slow spread of COVID-19

“In 2019, for example, arrivals from China began to rise in late January and then peaked in February prior to the New Year on Feb. 5,” it reads. “In 2020, however, arrivals from China rose and then peaked entirely in January prior to the New Year on Jan. 25.”

Canadian airlines started to halt flights to Beijing and Shanghai in late January after the federal government issued a travel advisory that asked Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to mainland China, with obvious effects on the numbers.

More than 24,000 travellers from China arrived at Vancouver International Airport in January, higher than the figure of 23,000 recorded a year earlier.

“In February of 2020, however, with the pre-New Year peak having shifted back from February to January in 2020 and some suspended flight services from Beijing and Shanghai to Vancouver International Airport, the number of travellers from China declined from 18,000 to 7,000 trips,” it reads.

This picture, of course, is liable to change once more recent figures become available following the imposition of far-reaching travel bans to all parts of the world from and into Canada.


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