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Travel between Canada and other countries, March 2020

Released: 2020-05-22

Highlights

International travel to and from Canada came to a standstill by the end of March, as a result of government-imposed travel restrictions and border closings aimed at containing the virus. These actions were taken as the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada increased sharply in March due to travel-related exposure and community transmission.

Effective March 16, the Canadian government closed its international border to all travellers, except for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and US citizens. Consequently, international travel from overseas was down by 52.7% over the month.

The Canada-US border was closed on March 21 to non-essential travel and this closure helped push total crossings down by 2.8 million trips during March. While this was the lowest number of Canada-US border crossings for any month in almost 50 years, April is poised to set a new low.

Overseas travel to Canada grinds to a halt in mid-March

By the end of March, most countries in the world had restrictions on travel to contain the further spread of COVID-19.

The number of arrivals to Canada from overseas countries (those other than the United States) fell by over half (-52.7%) from February to 275,000 trips in March. This was the largest single monthly decline since record keeping began in 1972.

The number of travellers from Europe fell 53.7% to 123,000, while travel from Asia dropped 52.8% to 79,000 trips.

As of March 17, Air Canada reduced its international flights between Canada and Europe by restricting service to London, Paris and Frankfurt.

These flight restrictions along with waning global demand helped push travel to Canada down. Trips by residents of the United Kingdom declined 55.4% from February to 33,000 in March. Large declines were also reported from France (-57.4% to 25,000 trips) and Germany (-34.4% to 22,000 trips).

The decline in travel from Asia was driven by fewer arrivals from China, down 52.0% from February to 15,000 trips in March. Following the Government of Canada's January 29 advisory to avoid all non-essential travel to China, Air Canada suspended all flights between Canada and Beijing and Shanghai, effective January 30.

Travel from Canada's other major markets for overseas travellers also fell sharply, including Mexico (-49.8% to 21,000 trips), Australia (-58.1% to 14,000 trips) and India (-51.3% to 14,000 trips).

Arrivals from the United States fall sharply

The number of US residents entering Canada declined 54.6% in March to 967,000 trips, marking the lowest monthly total since record keeping began in 1972.

Daily counts indicated that most of this decline took place just prior to the March 16 announcement and then, with the March 21 closure, the number of arrivals from the United States came to a halt through to the end of the month (as reported in the Leading indicator of cross-border traveller volume, April 2020).

US travel to Canada by car fell 54.6% in March to 666,000 trips, with overnight visits declining 56.5% to 325,000 trips and same-day trips down 52.5% to 341,000. Every province reported reduced car travel from the United States, led by British Columbia (-63.7% to 118,000 trips).

US residents took 191,000 trips to Canada by air, down a record 58.6% from February.

Large decline in same-day car travel to the United States

Trips to the United States by Canadian residents declined 43.4% from February to 2.1 million in March, with both car and air travel down sharply.

Following the March 21 border closure, the number of Canadian residents returning from the United States began a steep decline. Overall, the number of returning trips by automobile fell to 1.5 million in March, down 44.5% from February. Same-day car travel across the border was down 52.6% to 872,000 trips, while overnight car travel declined 28.9% to 676,000 trips.

Every province recorded less car travel across the Canada-US border, with the largest declines in British Columbia (-62.7%), Manitoba (-46.7%) and Ontario (-43.1%).

The number of Canadian residents arriving from the United States by air fell 39.7% from February to 504,000 in March.

Overseas travel by Canadian residents shrinks

Canadian residents returned from 677,000 trips overseas in March, down 35.0% from February. On a year-over-year basis, 344,000 fewer Canadians returned to Canada from overseas compared with March 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 February 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.

Products

The March 2020 issue of International Travel, Advance Information, Vol. 37, no. 3 (Catalogue number66-001-P), is now available.

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; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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