OTTAWA — All signs point to a robust year of tourism for Canada, with the Conference Board of Canada anticipating a 3.7% increase in overnight visits.
According to its latest Travel Markets Outlooks report, the increase will be a direct result of Canadian and foreign airlines expanding their fleets and adding direct connections to many destinations across the country.
“Last year, the low Canadian dollar and energy prices fueled travel to and within Canada. These factors will continue to benefit tourism growth in 2017. In addition, we expect that new direct flights and Canada’s reputation as a safe travel destination will drive the increased number of international arrivals,” said Greg Hermus, Associate Director for The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Tourism Research Institute.
Domestic pleasure travel is expected to grow by 3.4% in 2017 and will be boosted by two major events: the 150th anniversary of Confederation and Montreal’s 375th anniversary. Plus, the weak Canadian dollar will continue to work as a disincentive for Canadians to travel abroad.
In addition, a positive economic outlooks and improvements in the energy sector will help stimulate domestic business travel, which is forecast to experience a 2.2% growth this year. Expanded flight routes across Canada will also make business travel more convenient.
On top of the 9.5% growth in overnight visits from the U.S. witnessed last year, a further 5.3% increase is expected in 2017. While the favourable exchange rate and low gasoline prices are obvious drivers behind this growth, tourism organizations have been increasingly targeting their marketing campaigns to attract more U.S. travellers. In fact, Canada secured the top spot on ‘The New York Times’ list of travel destinations for 2017.
Outside the United States, solid travel gains are expected from nearly every world region in 2017 with overseas visits to Canada forecast to increase by 8.4%. The strongest growth this year is expected from Mexico at 28.3%. Canada lifted Mexico’s visa requirement in December 2016, which, coupled with the exchange rate and new policies put in place by the Trump administration, might make Canada appear more attractive as a travel destination.
Each of the nine Canadian cities covered in the ‘Travel Markets Outlook: Metropolitan Focus’ can expect to see tourism growth in 2017:
- Halifax: Overnight visits are forecast to grow by 3.2% in 2017. Building on last year’s strong performance, visits to Halifax should increase due to continued expansion in domestic air capacity and cruise ship activity.
- Quebec City: Overall, the city is expected to see an increase in overnight visits of 3.8% in 2017. A strong regional economy and low unemployment will help boost domestic travel, as will updated local tourist infrastructure like a new indoor water park and the expansion of the Musée National des Beaux-arts.
- Montreal: Events planned to commemorate the city’s 375th anniversary will boost Montreal’s overnight travel by a considerable 5.5% this year. Domestic travel will also benefit from the hosting of large conventions and sporting events.
- Ottawa-Gatineau: Pleasure travel to the nation’s capital is expected to receive a solid boost from activities related to the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The city recently hosted the Juno awards and the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup and will host the 105th Grey Cup in November. These major events will contribute to the 6.0 per cent growth in overnight visits expected for 2017.
- Toronto: Pleasure travel to Toronto this year is expected to be boosted by the hosting of major sporting events, including the Invictus Games and NHL’s centennial classic game. Overseas visits will benefit from strong increases in direct air capacity from Mexico, China, and Europe. Overall, overnight visits to Toronto are forecast to increase 4.5 per cent this year.
- Winnipeg: This year, hosting the Canada Summer Games and a new retail outlet mall will encourage visitors and spur an anticipated 3.3 per cent increase in overnight visits.
- Calgary: In 2016, Calgary’s tourism activity was dampened by weakness in the energy sector, low consumer confidence levels, and weak employment prospects. The outlook for 2017 is more favourable. Overseas visits will benefit from new direct flights from Beijing and Mexico City. Overall, overnight visits to the city and projected to increase 3.2% in 2017.
- Edmonton: Overnight visits to Edmonton declined by an estimated 1.4 per cent last year as Alberta’s economy grappled with low energy prices. As the economy slowly rebounds in 2017, pleasure travel will benefit from the recently opened Rogers Place arena and additional hotel inventory. These factors combined with strong growth in arrivals from U.S. and overseas markets will help spur a 2.6% growth in overall overnight visits.
- Vancouver: Following a record year for overnight travel, Vancouver should see further growth of 5.0 per cent in overnight visits in 2017. New direct connections from several key source markets and playing host to several major sporting events should boost pleasure travel to the city. Growth from overseas markets is projected to remain strong over the forecast period as air capacity continues to expand.