11/26/2012 08:31 EST | Updated 01/26/2013 05:12 EST

B.C. Tourism From U.S. Down Sharply

Visits to B.C. by U.S. tourists are down by more than a third over the past several years, according to a report from a Vancouver research group.

Nearly 2.5 million American tourists came to B.C. in 2011, but that’s 36-per-cent lower than the number that came 14 years earlier, according to the report from Urban Futures, a Vancouver research company.

The report blames the strong Canadian dollar and the hard-hit economy in the U.S., where unemployment has doubled since 1998.

The report also points to high gas prices as a disincentive to visitors who otherwise might have chosen to drive to B.C.

In 1998, a gallon of gas cost the same as a litre of gas in Canada, but since then, the cost in the U.S. has taken off.

“They’ve gone up about four-fold in the states and so that has significant implications for spending patterns and by extension travel patterns,” said Urban Futures director Ryan Berlin.

Some major tourist attractions are still managing to do well, despite the decline.

“We've been very fortunate and especially in the last year, we opened a new attraction called Cliff Walk, which has been very, very popular with our guests, received a lot of publicity and so in actual fact our numbers are improving,” said Sue Kafka, vice-president of sales and marketing, for the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge has also partnered with tourism boards to aggressively market B.C. destinations to Americans. But B.C.’s not the only destination doing that.

“There's a lot more choice for [Americans] as well. One of the things we're facing with the U.S. is there's a lot of countries -- including Americans --marketing to Americans,” said Paul Vallee, of Tourism Vancouver.

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