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Changing times for cross-border travellers

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Sharing the world’s longest unprotected border has advantages for Canadian and American travellers. One-day shopping trips and overnight stays north or south of the border have become time-honoured traditions. But longer waits at border crossings, stricter security policies and higher gas prices are changing those traditions for both Canadian and American travellers.

In 2004, Americans made 34.6 million same-day and overnight trips to Canada, down 2.5% from the previous year. Their same-day travel fell 8% to 19.5 million trips, but their overnight travel increased 6% to 15.1 million trips. Americans’ overnight trips to Canada have gone up every year since 1996.

Americans visiting Canada on overnight trips spent $8.2 billion here in 2004, up 12% from 2003. Visitors averaged about four nights per trip, and spent $541 per trip.

Cross-border traffic heading south was also busy in 2004. Canadians took 22.2 million same-day trips to the United States, a 3% increase from 2003, and the first increase since 1991. Meanwhile, Canadians’ overnight travel to the United States rose 9% to 13.9 million trips.

Among Canadians heading south, driving the family car has become an increasingly popular option—perhaps due to the costs and difficulties of air travel. In 2004, overnight car travel to the United States from Canada climbed to its highest level since 1997, reaching 8.1 million trips.

Canadian travellers stayed more than 107 million nights in the United States in 2004. And they spent $8.7 billion, or an average of $625 per trip, which is more than what Americans spent while travelling in Canada.