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Visitor Travel Survey, third quarter 2019

Released: 2020-02-26


Canada welcomed 12.5 million international travellers in the third quarter, up 4.8% from the same quarter a year earlier. Just over three-quarters of all international travellers to Canada came from the United States. The third quarter of the year is typically the busiest for international travel to Canada.

Spending in Canada by foreign travellers totalled $9.0 billion, up 2.4% from the third quarter of 2018. Growth was led by a 3.6% increase in spending by US travellers to Canada.

More US residents visiting friends or relatives in Canada, but fewer travelling across the border for holidays or leisure

US residents made 9.5 million trips to Canada in the third quarter, up 2.8% from the same quarter a year earlier. An increasing share of US travellers cited visiting friends or relatives as their main reason for travelling to Canada—this type of travel was up 12.1% year over year to 1.9 million trips.

Trips to Canada for holidays, leisure or recreation—the most common reason for travelling to Canada by US residents—were down 2.0% to 4.9 million trips. The number of business-related trips by US travellers to Canada rose 1.5% year over year to 1.1 million trips.

US visitors spent $4.5 billion while travelling in Canada in the third quarter, up from $4.3 billion during the same quarter of 2018. On average, US residents travelling to Canada spent $473 per trip.

Accommodation (39.8%), food and beverages (26.2%), and transportation within Canada (16.0%) were the largest expense items for US visitors to Canada, followed by recreation and entertainment (9.6%).

Ontario was the province most visited by US residents, with 4.7 million visits, up 2.5% from the third quarter a year earlier. This was followed by British Columbia (up 5.4% to 2.5 million visits) and Quebec (up 6.6% to 1.3 million visits).

Holidays, leisure or recreation is the primary trip purpose for overseas travellers to Canada

Travellers from overseas (countries other than the United States) made 3.0 million trips to Canada in the third quarter.

Of these, 1.3 million trips were primarily for holidays, leisure or recreation, while 1.1 million trips were to visit friends or relatives.

During the quarter, Ontario was the province most visited by overseas travellers (1.5 million visits). British Columbia (1.0 million visits) and Quebec (860,000 visits) were the next most frequently visited provinces by overseas travellers.

Spending by overseas visitors in Canada increased from $4.4 billion in the third quarter of 2018 to $4.5 billion in the same quarter of 2019. On average, overseas travellers spent $1,490 per trip.

Visitors from India stayed an average of 35 nights per trip in Canada, compared with an average of 31 nights by visitors from China and 20 nights by visitors from Australia. Visitors from Japan stayed in Canada an average of 16 nights per trip.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Average travel spending in Canada by overseas travellers, by selected major source country, third quarter 2019
Average travel spending in Canada by overseas travellers, by selected major source country, third quarter 2019

Spending on accommodation increased 0.8% in the third quarter to $1.6 billion, while food and beverage expenses rose 10.2% to $1.2 billion. These two expense items accounted for more than 6 of every 10 dollars spent in Canada by overseas residents. Clothes and gifts (14.8%), transportation within Canada (12.0%), and recreation and entertainment (9.3%) were other significant expense items.

Map 1  Thumbnail for map 1: Tourism regions
Tourism regions

Tourism spending down for travellers from China, but up for travellers from the United Kingdom and France

Foreign travellers spent $9.0 billion in Canada in the third quarter, up 2.4% from the same quarter of 2018. Tourism spending growth in Quebec (+9.6%), the Atlantic provinces (+7.3%) and Ontario (+6.9%) offset lower spending in the Prairie provinces (-6.6%) and British Columbia (-2.6%).

Long-haul travellers from China ($627 million), the United Kingdom ($585 million) and France ($450 million) spent the most among visitors to Canada from the major source countries during the quarter. However, travel spending from China declined 9.7% compared with the same quarter a year earlier, while spending by travellers from the United Kingdom (+9.2%) and France (+5.2%) increased.

The Vancouver, coast and mountains region was the top-earning tourist region nationally, at $1.8 billion, up 4.4% from the same quarter a year earlier. This region earned $999 million from overseas travellers, up 3.6% year over year. Visitors from China spent $215 million in this region in the third quarter, while visitors from the United Kingdom spent $148 million.

Spending by foreign travellers in the Greater Toronto Area totalled $1.3 billion, up 10.9% year over year. Overseas travellers accounted for 58.7% of total foreign travel expenditures in the region (+5.5% to $771 million). Among overseas travellers, visitors from China ($158 million) and the United Kingdom ($87 million) spent the most in the region. However, the amount spent by Chinese travellers in the region declined 8.5% year over year, while spending by visitors from the United Kingdom increased 6.3%.

The tourism region comprising Ontario outside Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa and their surrounding areas ranked third in tourism spending among Canada's tourism regions, up 1.8% year over year to $886 million. US travellers accounted for most (69.4%) of the expenditures by international travellers in the region ($615 million). Spending in the region by overseas travellers edged up 0.1% year over year to $271 million.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Total travel expenditures of foreign travellers in the highest-earning tourism regions (millions of dollars), third quarter 2019
Total travel expenditures of foreign travellers in the highest-earning tourism regions (millions of dollars), third quarter 2019 

  Note to readers

The Visitor Travel Survey (VTS) collects information about international travel to Canada by US and overseas residents.

The VTS was developed to fully replace the inbound visitor component of the International Travel Survey (ITS) and consists of two components: electronic questionnaires and the Air Exit Survey. Data from the VTS are historically comparable with data from the ITS.

The VTS uses Statistics Canada's Frontier Counts as benchmarks for the numbers of travellers to Canada. Statistics Canada's Frontier Counts are produced using administrative data from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on all international travellers who have been cleared for entry or re-entry into Canada.

In 2018, Statistics Canada undertook a review of sources of data on overseas residents entering Canada at land ports. Overseas residents who enter Canada at land ports represent about 10% of total overseas travellers to Canada. Total counts of overseas travellers were revised to reflect new sources of data at some ports. In addition, starting with August 2018 Frontier Counts data, Statistics Canada implemented a new method for estimating the country of residence through breakdowns of these overseas travellers when they enter Canada at most land ports. These changes affect the total counts of travellers to Canada from individual countries to varying degrees.

Starting with the release of 2018 data, VTS data include subprovincial estimates of tourism spending by international visitors to Canada. These estimates are produced using small area estimation (SAE) modelling to combine data collected from the VTS with aggregated payment processor data provided to Statistics Canada by Destination Canada. Payment processor data include information on spending category, tourism region and country of origin for credit cards used by international visitors to Canada. Methodological information is available in the document Small Area Estimation for Visitor Travel Survey.

The sum of spending data derived from the SAE model will not equal the sum produced by the VTS alone. When spending data are analyzed, it is recommended to use the estimates derived from the SAE model.

Overseas countries refer to countries other than the United States.

A trip to Canada is made by a resident of a country other than Canada who is cleared through a CBSA point of entry on a visit for a period of less than 12 months. A Canadian citizen residing outside Canada for more than 12 months who comes to Canada is included as a traveller from a country other than Canada.

A trip to Canada for a person residing in a country other than Canada starts when they are cleared through a CBSA point of entry to enter Canada and ends when they exit Canada.

Trips and visits: A trip can consist of one or more visits. A traveller from a country other than Canada may stay in several locations during a trip to Canada. Each stay at a Canadian location (for example, a province) within a given trip represents a visit.

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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