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Travel between Canada and other countries, April 2020

Released: 2020-06-23

Highlights

April marked the first full month of border restrictions, which brought international travel to and from Canada to a virtual stop. Overall, international travel was down significantly in April 2020 compared with April 2019.

The number of arrivals to Canada from overseas countries (countries other than the United States) fell by 96.6%, while US arrivals were down 96.8%.

The number of Canadian residents returning from trips to the United States declined by 96.0% year over year, and the number of those returning from overseas countries was down 97.5%.

Most countries restrict travel

Countries around the world imposed travel restrictions in April to contain the spread of COVID-19. Some of the measures taken include border closures, the suspension of international flights and physical distancing. On March 18, the Canadian border was closed to citizens of overseas countries and people without permanent residency status.

On March 21, the border between the United States and Canada was closed to non-essential travel. The closure brought total crossings down from 5.4 million trips in April 2019 to 203,000 in April 2020. This was the lowest number of Canada–US border crossings for any month since record keeping began in 1972, surpassing the record low set in March.

While restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada–US border were in effect throughout April, essential travel was still permitted, including travel for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.

Meanwhile, major Canadian airlines reduced the number of international flights between Canada and the rest of the world in late March and continued operating a restricted schedule throughout April. These flight restrictions, along with the bans on all non-essential travel around the world, resulted in a virtual standstill in overseas travel to Canada.

Overseas travel to Canada almost stops in April

The number of arrivals to Canada from overseas countries (countries other than the United States) fell 96.6% year over year to 17,000 trips in April.

The number of arrivals from Europe fell from 191,000 year over year to 2,400 trips, while the number of arrivals from Asia dropped from 167,000 to 3,500 trips.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom declined 99.1% year over year to 526 trips in April, while the number of arrivals from France declined from 40,000 to 195.

The number of arrivals from China was down 97.8% to 930 trips.

Other major markets for overseas travellers to Canada also recorded sharp year-over-year declines, including Australia (down 99.5% to 86 trips), Japan (down 99.4% to 107 trips), South Korea (down 99.3% to 122 trips) and Mexico (down 87.6% to 5,818 trips).

Arrivals from the United States nearly at a standstill

US residents made 51,000 trips to Canada in April, down 96.8% from April 2019. This was the lowest monthly total since record keeping began in 1972. Most crossings occurred at land borders by automobile (91.3%).

US residents made 47,000 trips to Canada by automobile in April, down from 1.1 million trips in April 2019. Over four-fifths (83.3%) of these automobile trips were same-day crossings, which fell from 600,000 trips to 39,000.

Automobile crossings by US residents were down in every province, with Quebec (down 97.4% to 2,900) and Ontario (down 96.1% to 25,000) reporting the largest declines.

Air arrivals to Canada from the United States declined 99.3%, from 403,000 trips in April 2019 to 2,800 in April 2020.

While this was the lowest number of trips to Canada from the United States by plane for any month since record keeping began in 1972, the month of May is poised to set a new low as Air Canada, Canada's largest airline, suspended its commercial flight services to the United States on April 26 until May 22, 2020.

British Columbia reports the largest decline in the number of Canadian residents returning from the United States

The number of Canadian residents returning from trips to the United States declined from 3.8 million in April 2019 to 152,000 in April 2020.

The number of trips by automobile, which accounted for 90.9% of total Canadian travel to the United States, fell from 2.7 million to 138,000.

Overnight car travel across the border decreased 96.5% to 32,000 trips, while same-day car travel declined 94.1% to 105,000 trips.

British Columbia reported the largest year-over-year decline (-98.4%) in the number of Canadian residents returning from the United States by automobile, followed by Quebec (-96.2%) and Manitoba (-94.8%).

The number of Canadian residents returning from trips to the United States by plane shrank 98.9% year over year to 11,000 in April.

Overseas travel by Canadian residents almost ceases

Canadian residents returned from 29,000 overseas trips in April, down 97.5% from the 1.2 million trips taken the same month a year earlier.


  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 entering Canada from abroad.

Unlike previous months, this month's analysis is based on unadjusted data (not seasonally adjusted) to emphasize the change in actual volumes. However, data are available on a seasonally adjusted basis from the tables. Because of the unusually small travel volumes in April 2020, future revisions to seasonally adjusted data for this month can be expected to be larger than usual.

Seasonally adjusted data for January 2019 to March 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 April 2020 issue of International Travel, Advance Information, Vol. 36, no. 4 (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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