Canadian travel to U.S. up year over year, and a banner year for inbound

Canadian travel to U.S. up year over year, and a banner year for inbound

OTTAWA — Canadians took 3.6 million trips to the U.S. in October, a 0.2% decrease from September 2017, but a 2.3% jump from October 2016.


According to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, on a year-to-date basis travel by Canadians to the U.S. was up 2% from January to October 2017, compared with the same period last year.


Canadians made 732,000 overnight trips by plane to the U.S. in October, a decline from September in most provinces and down 0.6% nationally. However the 732,000 trips represents a 7.8% increase compared with October 2016.


There was also a 9.5% increase in the number of overnight plane trips by Canadian residents to the U.S. from January to October, compared to the same period last year.


Car travel by Canadians to the United States was mostly unchanged (-0.1%) from September, but was up slightly (+0.7%) compared with October 2016. Cross-border car travel from Ontario and B.C. were up 1.5% and 2% respectively compared with October 2016, and together these two provinces accounted for more than 75% of all trips to the U.S. by car.


Meanwhile travel from Canada to overseas countries was almost unchanged in October 2017 versus September 2017, at (-0.1%), but up 6.8% compared with October 2016.


This was a record for the month of October and the sixth consecutive October of increased travel during the month by Canadian residents to overseas countries, according to StatsCan.


Meanwhile this year’s Canada 150 celebrations, a low Canadian dollar and new flight routes helped propel international visits into Canada to more than 23 million in 2017.


Overnight visits to and within Canada are expected to have increased by 3.1% this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Travel Markets Outlook for both national and metropolitan cities. More modest but still healthy growth of 2.5% is forecast for 2018.


“The hundreds of events organized in communities across the country to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday attracted visitors from both near and far, and contributed to a banner year for tourism in 2017,” said Greg Hermus, Associate Director for The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Tourism Research Institute.


“With this major milestone behind us, we can anticipate more subdued growth going forward. However, tourism will continue to be boosted by the low Canadian dollar, increased direct air capacity, and new marketing efforts.”


Domestic overnight travel is expected to grow by 2.9% this year, with slightly lower growth of 2.3% anticipated for 2018.

Overnight visits from the U.S. are expected to expand by 2.7% this year and another 2.7% increase is forecast for next year.


Overseas visits to Canada are expected to grow by 7.1% this year and are slated to reach 6.2% in 2018. This year, the biggest increase (45.1%) will come from Mexico thanks to a number of factors, including Canada’s decision to lift its visa requirement, an increase in direct air capacity between the two countries, and Donald Trump’s perceived disparaging statements toward Mexico, says Hermus. Next year, travel from China should be stimulated by the Canada-China Year of Tourism, which was initiated to boost tourism flows in both directions.


Of the 10 Canadian cities covered in the Travel Markets Outlook: Metropolitan Focus, most experienced tourism growth between 3% and 5.5% this year. Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal will have seen the strongest growth in overnight visits this year at 5.5% and 5.1% respectively, while Toronto and Vancouver will have the strongest increase next year at 3.4% each:



Boosted by the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the favourable exchange rate, overnight visits to Halifax are forecast to have expanded by 4% this year. In 2018, overnight visits are projected to increase by 3.1% thanks in part to the opening of the Nova Centre.



Buoyed by the many festivals and events celebrating Montréal’s 375th birthday, overall overnight travel will increase by 5.1% this year, second only to Ottawa. Coming off such a strong year, it is not surprising that growth expectations are more modest next year. Still, annual growth of 2.2% or higher is anticipated over the next five years.


Québec City

While tourism activity in Québec City was partly overshadowed by Montréal’s 375th birthday celebrations this year, overnight visits to the city increased by a healthy 3.1% this year. Further growth of 2.7% expected for 2018.



Pleasure travel to the nation’s capital received a solid boost from activities related the 150th anniversary of Confederation. In total, overnight visits to Ottawa-Gatineau are projected to have risen by 5.5% in 2017. While the projections are much more modest for 2018, the volume of overnight visitors should remain elevated, thanks in part to new facilities and the exposure created by the 150th anniversary events, says Hermus.



Overnight visits to Toronto are expected to have grown at a solid 4% this year. Going forward, the steady expansion of direct air capacity from domestic, U.S., and overseas source markets is projected to remain a major growth driver.


St. Catharines-Niagara

Like Ottawa-Gatineau and Toronto, the 150th anniversary of Confederation provided a boost in overnight visits to St. Catharine’s-Niagara, as did the city’s offering of accommodation to athletes from the Invictus Games and their families. Overall, overnight visits to the area are forecast to have increased by 3.1% this year, with more modest growth of 2.8% expected in 2018.



Tourism activity in Winnipeg benefited this year from hosting the 2017 Canada Games, strong convention activity, and the Canada 150 celebrations. All in all, overnight visits are projected to increase 3.2% this year and 2.6% in 2018.



This year, overnight visits to Calgary are estimated to increase by 3.6%, with business travel boosted by the recovery of the regional economy. Through to 2021, growth rates of 2.6% or more are projected, supported by solid increases from overseas markets.



Overnight visits to Edmonton this year are projected to have expanded by 3.5%, stimulated by attractions such as the recently opened Rogers Centre arena and by a rebound in the provincial economy. Going forward, growth rates should average 2.5% over the next few years.



Overnight visits to Vancouver are forecast to have increased by 3% this year, fuelled by large sporting events and 150th anniversary celebrations. With strong growth from Asian markets, overnight visits are forecast to grow by 3.4% next year.

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