Published on: Oct 11, 2019
Statistics Canada has released its report on the number of travellers who visited Canada in 2018, and the results paint an informative picture of the state of Canada's travel and tourism industry, as well as the spending and travel habits of international visitors. Visitors to Canada came from all over the world and contributed over $20 billion to Canada's economy.
Unsurprisingly, Canada's nearest neighbour provided the majority of international visitors. In fact, out of 31.3 million travellers from other countries who visited Canada in 2018, 27,412,000 came from the United States, making up more than 87.5% of visitors. More than two thirds of these visitors from the United States drove to Canada, with an additional 22.4% arriving by air and the rest arriving by other methods. Although American travellers accounted for the vast majority of visitors to Canada, they didn't account for the majority of visitor spending: American travellers spent $10.6 billion in Canada in 2018, slightly less than visitors from overseas countries.
Although visitors to Canada predominantly came from the USA, overseas visitors also had a major impact on the Canadian economy in 2018. After the USA, Britain, China, France, and Germany were the next largest contributors to Canada's international travel. 814,000 people travelled to Canada from the United Kingdom, with 757,000 coming from China, 611,000 from France, and 417,000 from Germany. Although these overseas visitors represented only a small fraction of the number of travellers in 2018, they had a disproportionate effect on the economy compared to visitors from the US because of the high percentage of spending they accounted for. Overseas visitors to Canada spent 11.1 billion dollars, outspending their American counterparts despite their much lower numbers. Predictably, they also arrived in different ways, with 84.2% of international visitors arriving by air. The remaining visitors arrived by other routes, including road, sea, and rail.
Visits to Canada by foreign travellers weren't distributed equally across the country. Whether they were arriving as tourists, travelling for business, or visiting friends or family, visitors tended to cluster in a small number of specific areas. Just three provinces accounted for nearly three quarters of all visits. Ontario led the rankings with 43.8% of visits, followed by British Columbia with 24.1% and Quebec with 14.2%.
Foreign visitors to Canada spent over $21 billion in 2018. The leading area of expenditure was accommodation, which accounted for 37.1% of total spending by these travellers. Food and beverages made up the next highest category of spending, coming in at 25.3%. Transportation accounted for 12.8% of total spending, with 12.4% going on clothes and gifts and 9.7% on recreation. Given the total amount, even the smallest major category, recreation, saw over $1 billion in spending.
These figures demonstrate the importance of international travel. With over $20 billion spent by foreign travellers, they demonstrate that international travel plays a significant role in Canada's economy. They also reveal the complexities of these international travellers, revealing an important disparity between the two main groups of visitors. Even though American travellers made up the vast majority of foreigners visiting Canada, they spent far less on a per-visit basis, presumably as a result of shorter trips from closer starting points. The different patterns of travel and spending between US and overseas visitors mean that Canada's tourism and travel strategies need to be able to account for two -- or more -- different patterns of travel. By understanding who Canada's visitors are, where they come from, where they're going and what they spend their money on, Canada can shape a travel policy that meets the needs of both visitors and Canadian business.