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Canadian Tourism Activity Tracker, May 2021

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Released: 2021-07-29


In May, overall tourism activity in Canada was 68.9% below the level reached in May 2019, before the pandemic. This was down even more than April (-66.3%) with the continuation of border closures into May and a full month of tighter restrictions in some provinces to combat a third wave of COVID-19.

Visit the Canadian Tourism Activity Tracker tool to interact with recent and historic data.

Tighter restrictions continue

In several provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, business closings along with restrictions on the size of gatherings were in effect during the entire month to combat a third wave of the virus. The Canada-US border remained closed for non-essential travel throughout May and, together with additional requirements for international air travellers – testing upon arrival with a hotel stopover – served to further dissuade international travel.

Third wave halts recovery

In December 2020, overall tourism activity was down by 61.6%, compared with the same month in 2019. In 2021, tourism activity began to drop further as provincial restrictions and closures were enacted to combat regional outbreaks and new variants. A temporary reopening in many provinces during March provided a reprieve of sorts before additional lockdowns took place in April and into May.

By May of 2021, overall tourism activity in Canada was 68.9% below the pre-pandemic level reached in May of 2019. Domestic activity (i.e., from the contribution of Canadians) was down 55.8% while inbound activity (i.e., from the contribution of international visitors) was down 93.8%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Canadian Tourism Activity Tracker, December 2019 to May 2021
Canadian Tourism Activity Tracker, December 2019 to May 2021

Provincial differences widen

At the provincial level, tourism activity in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia was down over two-thirds from pre-pandemic levels of May 2019.

Meanwhile, some provinces fared relatively better in May, including Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan, with tourism activity down by 50.8% and 54.3% respectively from the same month in 2019.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Change in provincial tourism activity, May 2021 compared to May 2019
Change in provincial tourism activity, May 2021 compared to May 2019

  Note to readers

The Canadian Tourism Activity Tracker is part of a shift at Statistics Canada from measuring the economic impacts of the pandemic to assessing the recovery. The tracker combines data from multiple sources, including counts of international travellers, domestic and international commercial aircraft and surface movements as well as hotel occupancy rates, restaurant sales and reservation bookings.

When these data sources are combined, each series is first normalized using a ratio method that removes seasonality and allows comparison with the same month from the 2019 base. Then weights are used to combine these normalized values into a single estimate for a given month and geography. The weights are determined based on the data series correlation with overall tourism—the higher the correlation, the larger the weight.

The domestic tourism value is calculated using domestic-related data, while the inbound value uses international-related sources. The two values are combined proportionately based on National Travel Survey and Visitor Travel Survey data collected before the pandemic, with the level set to zero for each month in the 2019 base year. For a given month in subsequent years, a tracker value above zero indicates that tourism activity is greater than the 2019 base, while a value below zero indicates the opposite.

As this is an experimental product, caution is warranted when interpreting these estimates. For example, initial estimates for some of the series are input into the tracker before data are officially released. As such, tracker estimates should be viewed as preliminary and are subject to revision when final estimates become available. With more data sources being considered along with new methods, this may entail the need for further revisions.


The product "Canadian Tourism Activity Tracker," part of the Data Visualization Products series (Catalogue number71-607-X), is now available.

Contact information

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