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Travel between Canada and other countries, February 2020

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Released: 2020-04-29


In late January, a Canadian resident who returned to Toronto from Wuhan, China, became Canada's first documented case of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Although there were only 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by the end of February, early indications of the potential impact of the virus on international travel were already evident.

The total number of arrivals to Canada from overseas countries fell 8.3% from January to February, the largest month-over-month decline since 1993. Incoming travel from Asia was down by one-quarter, and travel from China was down by just over one-half.

Travel across the Canada–United States border occurred as usual during February (+2.0%). This will change dramatically in the March data. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced a 30-day restriction on all non-essential travel across the Canada–US border as of March 21, 2020.

Fewer overseas travellers to Canada in February

In February, the number of arrivals to Canada from overseas countries (countries other than the United States) declined 8.3% from January, to 573,000 trips. The number of travellers from Asia fell 24.7%, to 165,000, while travel from Europe edged up 1.0%, to 263,000 trips.

Arrivals from China fell by 52.6% from the previous month, to 31,000 trips in February. This followed the Government of Canada's advisory on January 29, 2020, to avoid non-essential travel to China, and Air Canada's subsequent suspension of all flights between Canada and Beijing and Shanghai, effective January 30, 2020.

The February decline was also partly caused by the shift in the date of the Chinese New Year, which occurred on January 25 in 2020, compared with February 5 in 2019. Travel from China usually peaks before the Chinese New Year.

Travel from other affected countries in Asia, including South Korea (-17.2%), Japan (-15.7%) and Hong Kong (-12.2%), also declined.

In February, several European countries announced their first COVID-19 cases, many of which were linked to travel-related exposure to the virus in northern Italy, the most affected region outside Asia at the time. Italy began implementing physical distancing measures in late February, but cross-border and international travel continued.

Travel to Canada from France rose 2.1% from January, to 59,000 trips, contributing to the overall increase in arrivals from Europe. This was offset by fewer arrivals from the United Kingdom (down 1.2%, to 74,000 trips) and Germany (down 2.6%, to 33,000 trips).

Car arrivals from the United States rise

US residents made 2.1 million trips to Canada in February, up 1.0% from the previous month. The increase was led by car travel.

In February, the number of US residents who entered Canada by car rose 1.4%, to 1.4 million trips. Same-day car arrivals increased 3.2%, to 715,000 trips to Canada, while overnight car travel edged down 0.3%, to 738,000 trips. All border provinces except Quebec reported an increase in same-day car trips by US residents in February.

In February, the number of US residents who arrived in Canada by air declined 1.4% from January, to 458,000.

Travel to the United States rises

Canadian residents made 3.7 million trips to the United States in February, up 2.6% from January, with both car and plane travel increasing.

The number of Canadian residents who returned from the United States by car increased 3.4% from January, to 2.8 million trips. Same-day car trips rose 3.5% from the previous month, to 1.8 million, while overnight car trips were up 3.3%, to 950,000. Although most provinces recorded increases, the largest increases occurred in British Columbia (+9.3%) and Manitoba (+9.3%).

Plane trips edged up 0.4% from the previous month, to 845,000.

Overseas travel by Canadian residents edges down

In February, the number of Canadian residents who travelled overseas edged down 0.1%, to 1.0 million, in the wake of increased government travel warnings related to coronavirus outbreaks in overseas countries and the evacuation of Canadian citizens from affected areas.

On a year-over-year basis, almost 18,500 more Canadians returned to Canada from overseas in February 2020 compared with February 2019.

  Note to readers

Data for Statistics Canada's Frontier Counts program are produced using administrative data received from the Canada Border Services Agency 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 countries who are entering Canada from abroad.

Monthly data are seasonally adjusted. Seasonally adjusted data for January 2019 to January 2020 have been revised.

For information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

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 nights' stay.


The February 2020 issue of International Travel, Advance Information, Vol. 36, no. 2 (Catalogue number66-001-P), is now available.

Contact information

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