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British Columbians eye return to travel as report predicts recovery in years

Last Updated Mar 10, 2021 at 5:35 am PDT

FILE - A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As more people are vaccinated, what will it mean for the tourism industry?

Report shows Canadians are highly interested in future international travel, when restrictions are lifted

Destination BC says tourism projected to recover in province back to 2019 levels by 2024

VANCOUVER (CityNews) – Where do you want to go after the COVID-19 pandemic ends? Would you consider staying within B.C. to help the struggling tourism industry?

Most local businesses are looking forward to the day when restrictions begin to ease, and British Columbians also appear to be looking ahead to the lifting of travel restrictions.

“I’d go back to Scotland in a heartbeat!” one Vancouverite said.

“I want to do a roadtrip across Canada, actually!” another told CityNews Vancouver.

The tourism industry and related businesses have taken a massive hit amid the pandemic. For many, the past year has been the worst on record as the health crisis forced the federal government to bring in travel restrictions in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“2020 was the most devastating year in our company’s 27 year history,” said Ian MacPhee, financial controller, Prince of Whales.

A new report from Destination Canada says Canadians are highly interested in future international travel. However, it notes recovery for the country’s tourism sector is expected to take years.

“We do project tourism will recover in British Columbia back to the 2019 levels by 2024,” explained Maya Lange, vice-president of global marketing, Destination BC.

The report also predicts recovery could be accelerated by a year if there’s a significant increase in domestic travel.

Destination BC has developed three scenarios for the future of travel: pessimistic, mid-range, and optimistic. It’s partly based on vaccine supply, and B.C.’s vaccination plan.

“We are planning towards the optimistic scenario,” Lange said. “Optimistic has us see domestic travel — so travel within British Columbia — initiate in April, and then domestic, rest-of-Canada travel in early summer, and international travel shortly thereafter.”

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And there is some appetite among British Columbians to stay somewhat local.

Some people have said they would like to travel within the country when restrictions ease, while others have plans to discover more of British Columbia, at least for the first little while.

Wherever they’re coming from, MacPhee says visitors are needed.

“We’re down 80 per cent of our business, we’ve lost a tremendous amount of money, we’ve had to employ about a quarter to 20 per cent of our regular staff,” MacPhee said. “Every Canadian that wants to go somewhere else, there are probably 10 or 20 non-Canadians that would consider coming to Canada. If we can go, can they come? And if that’s the case then we’ll be fine.”

This summer, Lange says Destination BC plans to remind British Columbians of the tangible experiences in their own province.

“Hoping that we can get back to those travel restrictions pretty soon, so British Columbians can start planning their amazing summer ahead,” she said.