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Travel between Canada and other countries, May 2018

Released: 2018-08-10

More US travellers to Canada by car in May, but fewer by plane

US residents made 2.0 million trips to Canada in May, up slightly (+0.5%) from April. US residents made 0.9% fewer trips to Canada over the first five months of 2018 in comparison with the same period in 2017.

US residents made a total of 1.3 million car trips to Canada in May, after adjusting for normal seasonal variations. This was an increase of 2.6% from April, but down slightly (-0.3%) from May 2017.

Of the car trips made by US residents to Canada in May, about 649,000 were same-day trips, an increase of 1.5% from the previous month, but 5.1% fewer than in May 2017. Overnight car trips to Canada were up 3.7% from April, and increased 4.8% from May of the previous year. New Brunswick was the only border province to register a decrease in car trips in May (-5.3%), with declines in both same-day (-5.0%) and overnight (-5.9%) car trips.

The number of US residents making overnight trips to Canada by plane declined by 4.4% in May to 357,000. The decrease was largely driven by declines in air travel to Ontario (-10.7%) and British Columbia (-4.6%).

Travel to Canada from overseas increases

Residents of overseas countries (countries other than the United States) made 563,000 trips to Canada in May, an increase of 3.3% from April following two months of decline.

The number of travellers from Asia rose 6.6% to 198,000, while the number from Europe declined 0.4% to 240,000.

From January to the end of May, travellers from Asia made 718,000 trips to Canada, an increase of 3.4% over the same period in 2017. Meanwhile, travellers from Europe made 788,000 trips to Canada over the first five months of 2018, a decrease of 0.7% compared with the same period the previous year.

China on path to become leading source of overseas travellers in 2018

Every year since the start of Statistics Canada's modern record keeping in 1972, the United Kingdom has topped the list of source countries for travellers to Canada. So far, over the first five months of 2018, the Canada–China Year of Tourism, China is the number one source country for overseas travellers to Canada. From January to May, Canada received 230,000 travellers from China and 223,000 from the United Kingdom.

By comparison, in 1990, China was 21st on the list of source countries of overseas travellers to Canada, with 28,000 travellers making the trip. This number has grown steadily, to 77,000 in 2000, to 200,000 in 2010, and to around 511,000 in 2015, when it replaced France as the second-largest source country for travellers.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Travel to Canada from selected countries, 1990 to 2017
Travel to Canada from selected countries, 1990 to 2017

Canadian travel to the United States rises during the first five months of 2018 

From January to the end of May 2018, Canadians made 18.1 million trips to the United States, an increase of 11.5% compared with the same five months in 2017.

This increase, as well as the 2.7% rise in 2017 compared with 2016, followed three years of declining travel to the United States that began in 2013, when the Canadian dollar was last at par with the US dollar. In May 2018, the Canadian dollar stood at US$0.78, compared with US$0.73 in May 2017.

In May 2018, Canadian residents made 3.9 million trips to the United States, a slight decline of 0.2% from April. A 3.2% decrease in overnight trips was mostly offset by a 2.1% increase in same-day car trips. However, compared with 12 months earlier, the total number of trips by Canadian residents to the United States was up 17.6%.

More than three-quarters of the trips (3.0 million) were made by car. Same-day car trips to the United States increased 2.1% in May to 2.0 million, while overnight car trips declined 3.2% in the month to 946,000. In contrast, both same-day (+20.9%) and overnight (+12.3%) car trips were up from May of the previous year, when much of Central and Eastern Canada experienced unusually wet weather.

Overnight plane trips by Canadian residents to the United States were down 1.0% from April to 782,000.

Canadian travel to overseas countries declines

Canadian residents made 1.0 million trips to overseas destinations (countries other than the United States) in May. This was a decrease of 1.8% from the previous month and the first decline in four months.

  Note to readers

Monthly data are seasonally adjusted. For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions. Year-to-date figures are based on unadjusted data.

Seasonally adjusted data from January 2015 to May 2018 have been revised. Non-seasonally adjusted data from January 2018 to May 2018 have been revised for airports that have implemented the Primary Inspection Kiosk (PIK) system. No corrections were made to the previous month (April).

Data for Statistics Canada's Frontier Counts program are produced using administrative data received from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on all international travellers who have been cleared for entry or re-entry into Canada. This includes residents of Canada, the United States and overseas entering Canada from abroad.

In 2017, the CBSA began introducing the electronic Primary Inspection Kiosk (PIK) system at airports in Canada. The PIK system replaces the E311 Declaration Cards that are completed by international travellers to Canada. As of the end of May 2018, the PIK system was deployed at the following airports: Macdonald–Cartier, Ottawa (March 2017); Vancouver International Airport (April 2017); Toronto International Airport T3 (June 2017); Edmonton International Airport (September 2017); Stanfield International Airport, Halifax (October 2017); Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Montréal (November 2017); Jean Lesage Airport, Québec (December 2017); and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (May 2018).

While awaiting receipt of PIK data, Statistics Canada prepared preliminary estimates for airports at which the PIK system has been deployed. These estimates were based on CBSA reports of total international travellers by airport, while the distribution between Canadian, American and travellers from individual overseas countries were modelled estimates based on historical data and trends, using methods similar to those used to do seasonal adjustment.

This release of Frontier Counts for the May 2018 reference month is the first release that incorporates PIK data from the airports where the system has been implemented. For the months of January 2018 to April 2018, preliminary modelled estimates of traveller counts at PIK airports have been replaced by PIK-based counts. The provincial and national totals to which these counts contribute have also been revised. The preliminary estimates of 2017 traveller counts for PIK airports will be revised at a later date.

While seasonally adjusted data have been revised since 2015, caution should be exercised when comparing with 2017 data that include international travellers to Canada by air for the months of March to December. This is because the revision of the preliminary modelled data for PIK airports in 2017 with actual PIK data has not yet been implemented. Nonetheless, this break in the series is temporary pending revision of the estimates using PIK data.

Data users are also cautioned that the switch from E311 cards to PIK has impacted the historical comparability of some data series. Most notably, there has been an increased tendency of Canadian travellers returning from overseas trips via the United States to report that they are returning from the United States and not overseas via the United States. In the Frontier Counts, this has led to increases in the numbers of Canadian residents returning from the United States by air, and decreases in the numbers of Canadian residents returning from Countries other than the United States by air via the United States (as well as more aggregated series to which these data contribute).

The numbers of travellers to and from Canada by car and other modes of transportation are not affected by revisions in PIK data.

Overseas countries refer to countries other than the United States.

A Canadian resident traveller is a Canadian resident who has travelled outside Canada for a period of less than 12 months.

A non-resident traveller is a resident of a country other than Canada who is travelling to Canada for a period of less than 12 months.

An overnight traveller or a tourist is a traveller whose trip includes one or more night's stay.

Top 10 overseas markets by country of origin in 2018, year to date

1. China – 230,000

2. United Kingdom – 223,000

3. France – 166,000

4. Mexico – 128,000

5. Australia – 110,000

6. Germany – 104,000

7. India – 93,000

8. South Korea – 80,000

9. Japan – 79,000

10. Brazil – 61,000


The May 2018 issue of International Travel, Advance Information, Vol 34, no. 5 (Catalogue number66-001-P) is now available.

The April 2018 issue of International Travel, Advance Information, Vol 34, no. 4 (Catalogue number66-001-P) is also now available.

For more information regarding the impacts on Statistics Canada travel and tourism data resulting from the replacement of E311 cards with PIK, please contact

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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