While inbound traffic to the USA from Canada is projected by the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) by eight percent—it is down by 16 percent for the first four months of 2016—inbound traffic from the United States to Canada is up by nearly 10 percent, year-on-year, through September and air arrivals from the U.S. for the same period are up by more than 17 percent for the same period, according to figures released by Destination Canada (DC). The outlook is positive enough that the organization might achieve its goal of having 20 million international visitors a year by 2020 as early as this year.
About 1.4 million overnight visitors to Canada arrived from the US in September 2016, up 11.5 percent over September 2015, bringing total US arrivals in the first three quarters of 2016 up to 11.2 million (+9.7 percent over the same period of 2015). This was the best September for US arrivals since 2005, and the best January-September performance since 2006.
Overall, arrivals from all international markets, including Destination Canada’s 11 targeted international markets (USA, France, Germany, UK, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Brazil and Mexico), except for Brazil, are registering health increases in travel volume to Canada. From January to September 2016, Canada welcomed 16.1 million overnight visitors, including 14.3 million from the with several of these markets posting exceptional performances over the first three quarters of 2016, most notably South Korea (+32.8 percent, China (+23.7 percent), Mexico (+18.6 percent), the UK (+15.7 percent) and Australia (+13.6 percent).
Outbound Travel: The data furnished from Statistics Canada may be scored slightly differently than that furnished by NTTO, but those data we do have confirm—from both markets—that Canadian traffic to the U.S. is off by a significant amount in 2016. NTTO’s forecast has Canadian arrivals down 8 percent for the year, while Statistics Canada has the number at -8.9 percent through September.
Note: The figures are preliminary estimates and are subject to change.
Source: Statistics Canada, International Travel Survey
What Does it Mean, and for Which Market? Those for whom national accounts are important have much statistical fodder to rummage through with the latest report from Destination Canada. But for much of the world, the USA and Canada comprise one North American market. And given the symbiotic relationship of the travel and tourism industry in the two countries, where there is cross ownership of tourism-related businesses as well as cross border itineraries, the disparity is less important. However, U.S. businesses clustered near key points along the U.S.-Canada border, or within day-trip range of Canadian travelers, have suffered substantially by the drop in visitors—especially among those who engage in shopping excursions—from Canada, due primarily to the weakened Canadian dollar (loon) vs. the U.S. dollar.
The loonie, which traded at about $1.03 in 2012, sunk to less than $0.70 near the end of 2015 and is still trading about $0.75. (See chart below)
Canadian Dollar vs. U.S. Dollar