Pandemic takes toll on British Columbia's tourism, as border closure extends to June 21 | KNKX

Pandemic takes toll on British Columbia's tourism, as border closure extends to June 21

May 19, 2020

The closure of the U.S.-Canada border has been extended to June 21 due to the novel coronavirus. This is having a pronounced economic impact in British Columbia, particularly in the tourism industry.

This is the second extension of the closure for land and sea crossings to all but commercial and essential travel.

This closure includes tourist traffic. Tourism is the largest industry in the Vancouver area, directly employing 70,000 full-time jobs. The extension comes along with the cancellation of the year’s Vancouver to Alaska cruise ship season.

Walt Judas, the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC, says the industry understands the reason for the border closure. Although there are no hard economic numbers yet, it is having a major impact.

“Having the borders closed really hurts a number of small businesses throughout the province, particularly those that welcome almost exclusively U.S. visitors,” Judas said. “The border closures is a big impact on our industry.”

British Columbia is now entering phase two of a restart plan. Although most retail did not officially have to close, hair and nail salons or “personal services” are able to legally reopen, and dining in restaurants and pubs is allowed, all with restrictions. 

With 1.5 times the population of B.C., Washington state itself has seen 7.4 times the number of deaths and infections from COVID-19.

Vancouver is the principal starting point for most cruise ships heading to ports of call in Alaska, with Seattle providing the main competition. According to the Vancouver port authority, 2019 was a record-breaking year with more than 288 cruise ship visits, a 22 percent increase from 2018.  The season for Alaska-bound cruise ships is usually from beginning of April to end of October.

Tourism Vancouver - the Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates each ship’s visit brings at least upwards of $2.2 million American in immediate spin-off benefits, such as pre- and post-cruise stays in local Vancouver hotels. This is only a minimum, as many visitors continue on to other areas in the region. Tourism Vancouver also estimates that in 2019, approximately 2.6 million Americans visited the city, an increase of 3 percent from the previous year.

The United States Trade Representative estimates that $718.5 billion in all types of trade crossed the U.S.-Canada border in 2018. That is over $2 billion a day.