Industry Profile: Tourism and Hospitality

This article first appeared in the February issue of the Vancouver Economy Report.

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After thriving for decades, COVID-19 represents the greatest challenge to Vancouver’s tourism and hospitality industry in recent memory.

Before the pandemic, this industry was growing faster than the provincial economy as a whole with $20.5 billion in revenues and 161,500 jobs. Metro Vancouver represented a significant source of revenues with tourism and hospitality, which includes the restaurant and food services sector, contributing over $14.4 billion to the economy and supporting more than 105,000 jobs.

$14.4 billion
annual economic value
full-time jobs in Metro Vancouver
$308 million
municipal tax revenues
$308 million
municipal tax revenues

Tourism’s benefits transcend industries, with many tourism businesses buying goods and services from local retailers, supporting jobs in sectors ranging from agriculture to education, and facilitating access to international markets. Tourism enriches the lives of residents and visitors by supporting improvements to local amenities and infrastructure, including attractions, parks, recreation sites, resorts, restaurants and events. The industry also brings awareness to local culture and heritage, including championing and expanding awareness of Indigenous history and sovereignty through cultural experiences.

Cruise and conference traffic is particularly significant to Vancouver, representing an estimated $2.2 billion in direct and indirect economic impact. Each of the 280 cruise ships that dock at Canada Place each year stimulate $3.17 million in direct economic activity. Meanwhile, the meetings and conferences sector (M&C) drives more than $1.6 billion in direct and indirect visitor spending. This sum represents the groups and events Tourism Vancouver works alongside; it is considered a modest estimate, as it does not include M&C businesses that go directly to venues like the Vancouver Convention Centre or hotels. Over the years, the city has hosted prestigious events like the annual TED Conference, FIFA Women’s World Cup and SIGGRAPH, which have attracted tens of thousands of people while enhancing global awareness of Vancouver as a coveted destination for both business and leisure.

Metro Vancouver & BC Outlook for tourism in light of COVID-19

COVID-19 and associated public health guidelines related to travel and large gatherings have predictably devastated the industry. In Vancouver, Tourism Vancouver projects a loss of $9.8 billion in visitor spend and 72,000 full-time jobs eliminated over the past year. Many tourism businesses were forced to close temporarily, while others have shuttered their doors forever. According to the same study, should tourism businesses remain closed, the approximate tax burden would be an additional $123 per Metro Vancouver resident annually (based on 2020 numbers).

On Thursday, September 17, 2020, the Province of British Columbia announced a slate of measures to support and stimulate the recovery of BC’s tourism sector. Although the tourism industry has welcomed these initial relief measures, the industry has requested additional money to help keep businesses afloat, including doubling the $50 million set aside for supporting the work of the tourism task force, and an additional $95 million in emergency funding. Additionally, representatives of the sector have expressed dismay at the news that the Province of British Columbia was cautiously investigating increased limitations on interprovincial travel.

Projected economic losses in Metro Vancouver due to COVID-19


$9.8 billion
in visitor spend
$5.8 billion
in GDP
$2.6 billion
in tax revenues
full-time jobs

In early February, in an effort to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19, the federal government announced the cancellation of the upcoming cruise ship season through to February 2022. This places an enormous and compounding burden on tourism-facing businesses, particularly those in Gastown and along the downtown and Waterfront areas that rely on cruise traffic.

Published on February 18, 2021, the Vancouver Esports Strategy assesses Metro Vancouver and BC’s strengths and potential to grow into a global hub for an industry experiencing significant growth. With the esports industry’s prospective impacts on intraprovincial travel, events organization, and venue use, tourism entities such as the Vancouver Hotel Destination Association and Tourism Vancouver have expressed their hopes that esports could play a role in helping the struggling tourism industry to recover when it becomes safe to host events once more. Check out our Vancouver Esports Strategy for more information.

“Tourism Vancouver has set a goal of reaching $11 billion in revenue in 2026. To get there we’ve implemented a plan focused on the responsible restart of tourism in Metro Vancouver. We took a holistic look at how we could continue to contribute to the richness of our local communities while balancing the rebuild of our sector; a triple bottom line approach: people, planet and profit. Our strategies are informed by research and anchored in industry partnership so that we are able to deliver on our key priorities of rebuilding demand for Vancouver, sustainably. We recently launched #LoveVancouver to rekindle local curiosity and instill confidence for travel with residents. When the time is right to promote travel more broadly, we’ll be ready to welcome visitors back to our city.”

Royce Chwin, President & CEO, Tourism Vancouver

Refer to Tourism Vancouver’s 2021 Business Sprint for more information.

The tourism industry publishes regular updates for those interested in keeping up with developments on how the pandemic has impacted this economic pillar and its small businesses:

  • Tourism Vancouver puts out several Vancouver-centred member newsletters, including separate issues for public policy, news, research and sustainability. Sign up
  • Tourism Industry Association of BC’s newsletter provides timely COVID-19-related updates and resources. Subscribe | Browse Archives
  • Destination BC also provides regular updates on the fast-developing situation. Subscribe | Archives

Source(s): Tourism Vancouver