Published on: Sep 30, 2020
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been severe for worldwide travel, and Canada is no exception. With non-residents banned from non-essential travel since March 18 and the border between Canada and the United States closed since March 21, many visitors who would have travelled to Canada in previous years for work, to study, to visit family or simply for tourism have stayed home.
On September 23, Statistics Canada released figures showing the number of travellers who had entered Canada during July. The numbers showed a dramatic drop in travel, with travel from many countries dropping by nearly 100%. These figures do not include all visitors: military personnel, diplomats, immigrants, and former residents of Canada are not included in the totals. However, they still demonstrate the dramatic effect that border restrictions are having on Canada's usually-vibrant travel and tourism industry.
The United States is one of the most important sources of international travel to Canada. However, border closures and travel restrictions have taken a heavy toll on travel numbers from the United States. 113,414 United States residents entered Canada in July 2020. By contrast, 3,615,631 entered the country in July 2019. This represents a decrease of 96.9% from the previous year.
The decline in travel from the USA in July is consistent with the overall picture of reduced travel from Canada's neighbour to the south throughout the pandemic. Visitor figures for the period from January to July 2020 are down 75.6%, with 3,431,912 US residents visiting Canada compared to 14,094,089 in the same period in 2019. The slightly smaller drop between years compared to the drop between July numbers represents the number of US residents who arrived in the country before restrictions were imposed in mid-March.
Travel to Canada by residents of Asian countries also declined sharply in July, dropping 97.3% from 339,180 to 9,321 visits. Visits for the period between January and July dropped to 304,287 from 1,451,044, a decrease of 79%.
In a typical year, China is by far the largest contributor to travel from Asia; even in 2020, it was the fourth largest contributor, after the USA, France and the United Kingdom. Travel to Canada by Chinese residents decreased 98.7% in July 2020 compared to July 2019, with a total of 1,353 visits compared to 103,939 in the same month of the previous year.
Elsewhere in the world, the same pattern is visible. Travel from residents of European countries was down 98.2% between July 2019 and July 2020, with a total decrease of 80.4% for the period between January and July. Journeys by residents of African nations were down 95% in July and 76.2% for the year up to July, while travel from South America was down 99% to just 422 visits in July, with a 77.3% reduction for the year as a whole.
The largest reduction of any nation was in Brazil, which saw July visits drop by 99.5%, from 22,132 in July 2019 to just 108 in July 2020.
The decrease in numbers of visits hit different provinces to different extents, with the decrease in visits ranging from 85.7% for Prince Edward Island (although this figure represents a total of only 10 visits in July 2020) to 98.5% for British Columbia. As with most travel into Canada, the majority of visits arrived in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, but these provinces still saw significant drops in their numbers of visitors; all three provinces saw decreases in the number of visitors of over 95% in July 2020.
These figures illustrate the dramatic effect that travel restrictions and concerns about the safety of long-distance trips are having on overseas travel to Canada. The numbers illustrate an unprecedented decrease in new arrivals. Even as the government strives to maintain levels of immigration and ensure the ability of foreign workers and students to travel to Canada, these figures demonstrate the significant impact the pandemic has had on work, leisure and family travel. As the pandemic situation continues to develop, travel restrictions may alter, but until they do it seems that Canada will be dealing with possibly the most significant reduction in travel numbers the country has ever seen.