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National Travel Survey, third quarter 2019

Released: 2020-02-26


During the summer (July to September), typically the peak season for travel, Canadian residents made 101.5 million trips within Canada and abroad, up 1.5% from the third quarter a year earlier.

Domestic travel by Canadian residents increased 2.0% during the quarter, while travel abroad declined 2.4%, mainly because of fewer trips by Canadians to the United States.

More Canadians travel within Canada, but they spend less

Canadian residents took 91.5 million trips within Canada from July to September, up 2.0% from the same period a year earlier.

Although travel by Canadians rose during the third quarter, spending on domestic travel declined 0.9% year over year, to $17.7 billion. Average spending by Canadian travellers within Canada declined from $199 to $193 per trip.

Canadian residents spent the most on accommodation ($4.5 billion), food and beverages in restaurants and bars ($3.6 billion), and vehicle operation costs ($2.4 billion), which included the cost of gas and car repairs during domestic travels.

Spending on vehicle operation costs declined 8.9% year over year as average retail gasoline prices across Canada (excluding the North) declined 8.4% over this period. Compared with the third quarter of 2018, Canadians spent less on accommodation (-1.3%) and on food and beverages in restaurants and bars (-0.2%).

Spending on commercial transportation, including travel within Canada by plane, declined 20.4% to $442 million in the third quarter. Following the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max—which resulted in lower operational aircraft capacity and higher domestic airfares—many Canadian residents substituted flying with driving. Domestic travel by plane declined 5.0% year over year, while car travel increased 3.0%.

Canadian residents took 41.1 million trips within Canada for holiday, leisure or recreation, the most common reason for travelling domestically in the third quarter. This was up 1.1% from the same quarter a year earlier. The number of trips for visiting friends and relatives increased 2.4%, to 33.8 million trips, compared with the third quarter of 2018. In contrast, domestic travel for business-related purposes—including attending conferences, conventions or trade shows—declined 6.1%, to 5.5 million trips.

Ontario, the country's most populous province, recorded 38.1 million domestic visits during the summer months, up 3.5% from the same quarter a year earlier. Domestic visits to Quebec rose 5.8% to 20.5 million, making it the second most-visited province.

Meanwhile, there were fewer domestic visits to British Columbia—down 4.5%, to 11.7 million. In contrast to the severe wildfires that made headlines during the previous two summers, much of the southwestern area of British Columbia experienced unusually heavy summer rains in the first week of August.

Fewer Canadians travel to the United States

Canadian residents took 7.5 million trips to the United States during the third quarter, accounting for three-quarters of all trips abroad. Travel to the United States, however, declined 5.5% from the third quarter of 2018.

Similarly, spending by Canadian residents on trips to the United States declined 7.7%, to $4.8 billion. Average spending per trip by Canadian travellers to the United States declined from $659 to $644.

Canadians spent $1.9 billion on accommodation, the largest single travel expense item, which represented 40.0% of their total travel expenditures in the United States. This was followed by spending on food and beverages in restaurants and bars ($899 million, or 18.6%). Spending on accommodation in the United States increased 0.8% from the same quarter of 2018, while spending on food and beverages in restaurants and bars declined 8.7%.

In the third quarter, the most common reason reported by Canadian residents for travelling to the United States was holiday, leisure or recreation (4.1 million trips), down 7.9% year over year. In contrast, visiting friends or relatives, the next most commonly reported reason for travelling to the United States, increased 5.8%, to 1.6 million trips.

Many Canadians vacation in Europe during the summer

Canadian residents took 2.5 million trips to overseas countries (countries other than the United States) in the third quarter, up 8.7% from the same quarter a year earlier.

Spending by Canadian residents during trips to overseas countries increased from $4.1 billion year over year to almost $5.0 billion. Accommodation ($2.1 billion) and food and beverages in restaurants and bars ($973 million) accounted for the largest shares of total overseas travel expenses (excluding the cost of commercial transportation booked in Canada for travel to and from the overseas destination).

Italy (314,000 visits), the United Kingdom (230,000 visits) and France (196,000 visits) were the overseas countries most visited by Canadian residents during the third quarter. These were followed by Cuba (140,000 visits) and China (131,000 visits).

The majority of Canadian residents travelled overseas for holiday, leisure or recreation (55.7%) during the quarter. Visiting friends and relatives was the next most commonly reported reason for travelling to overseas countries (32.8%).

Pleasure and leisure was the main purpose for travel to Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Cuba, while reuniting with friends or relatives was the main reason for travel to China.

  Note to readers

The National Travel Survey (NTS) collects information about the domestic and international travel of Canadian residents.

The NTS was developed to fully replace the Travel Survey of Residents of Canada and the Canadian resident component of the International Travel Survey. Please note that NTS data are not comparable with data from these two surveys because the NTS was designed using a different survey methodology.

NTS estimates are based on a sample and are therefore subject to sampling variability. Estimates for smaller geographic areas and categories have more variability. Users are advised to exercise caution when conducting analyses using estimates with a high coefficient of variation, as indicated by the letter quality indicators attached to each survey estimate.

Users are advised that changes to procedures for contacting households selected to participate in the NTS survey were introduced in 2019. The changes in these procedures may have resulted in differences in the non-response bias present in NTS results of 2018 and 2019, which would affect the comparability of results between these two years.

The target population is the civilian, non-institutionalized population 18 years and older in Canada's provinces. Not included in the survey's coverage are persons living on reserves and persons living in the territories. Also excluded are out-of-scope trips, such as routine trips and trips taken by commuters and diplomatic or military personnel.

Domestic trips are made by travellers residing in Canada who travelled inside Canada for a period of less than 12 months before returning to their place of residence.

Same-day trips or visits take place within the same calendar day—that is, the traveller left and returned home on the same day—and must be a distance of 40 km or more away (one way).

Trips abroad are made by travellers residing in Canada who travelled outside of Canada for a period of less than 12 months before returning to Canada. Foreign citizens who are residing in Canada and travel abroad are included as Canadian resident travellers.

A trip abroad for persons residing in Canada starts when they cross the border to exit Canada and ends when they first re-enter Canada.

Trips and visits: A trip can consist of one or more visits. A Canadian traveller on a trip abroad may cross into several countries or US states before being recorded as having re-entered Canada. Each of these crossings represents a visit. Similarly, a Canadian resident travelling in Canada may stay in several locations during their trip. Each stay at a Canadian location (for example, a province) within a given trip represents a visit.


Data from the National Travel Survey for the second quarter of 2019 are now available. Other tables, including statistical profiles of Canadian travellers, are available upon request.

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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