Canada Year Book


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    Although Canada's landscape and culture make it a favoured tourism destination, in 2009, overnight travel from overseas countries (all countries except the United States) to Canada declined 12.3% to less than 4.1 million trips after reaching a high of 4.6 million trips in 2008. This was the first decrease in overseas travel to Canada since 2003. In the five-year period prior to 2009, overnight travel from overseas countries increased 40.5%.

    In 2008, Canada ranked 14th worldwide in international tourist arrivals and 15th in international tourism dollars received.

    Overnight travel to Canada

    Overnight travel from the United States declined for a fifth consecutive year, dropping 6.4% to 11.7 million trips in 2009. This marked the lowest level since 1985. The economic downturn in the United States and the stronger Canadian dollar likely contributed. Three out of four overnight trips from the United States were for pleasure or for visiting friends and relatives.

    In 2009, more than one out of three overnight trips from overseas countries was made by travellers from the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Overall, half of the trips from overseas countries were made by Europeans. Despite a 16.7% drop from 2008, travellers from the United Kingdom still led the way, with 724,000 overnight trips. France and Germany ranked second and third. In 2008, Germany replaced Japan as the third most important tourist market outside the United States.

    Among the top 12 overseas markets in 2009, Switzerland posted the largest increase in overnight travel to Canada (+1.5%), whereas Mexico recorded the largest decline (-36.5%).

    Canadians travel overseas in record numbers

    Canadian travel to overseas countries continued its upward trend in 2009, with Canadians taking a record 8.2 million overnight trips, up 1.3% from 2008.

    Travel overseas has historically shown steady increases, falling only twice in the last 20 years: in 1991, when Canadians were dealing with a recession; and again in 2002, following the events of September 11, 2001. Travel overseas even posted an 8.4% increase in 2003, despite the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak.

    Chart 31.1 Overnight trips to Canada
    View data source for chart 31.1

    International tourists decrease their spending in Canada

    Tourism spending in Canada decreased 2.0% in real terms in 2009. Canadians increased their spending on tourism but international visitors spent less money in Canada. This was the first annual decrease in tourism spending since a decline of 1.5% in 2003. From the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009, tourism spending fell 1.0% in real terms. This was well short of the 5.8% drop related to the SARS episode during the first two quarters of 2003.

    In Canada, spending by international visitors declined 8.7% to its lowest level since 1994. This was the fifth consecutive annual decline. The number of overnight visits to Canada by travellers from the United States and other countries fell 6.4% and 12.3% respectively. The decline in international spending in Canada mirrored a worldwide trend that saw a decrease in international tourism receipts in the first three quarters of 2009.

    Chart 31.2 Overnight trips by Canadian residents
    View data source for chart 31.2

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