Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Travel and tourism

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Whether it is the dinosaur bones in Alberta, the restaurants in Montréal or the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada offers tourists a variety of interesting sights and experiences.

Tourism contributed to Canada’s economy an average $24.0 billion each year in the past decade, and provided 663,000 jobs in a range of tourism-related industries.

In 2008, American and overseas visitors spent $16.1 billion in Canada. Canadian travellers spent about $28.7 billion outside Canada—a $12.6 billion travel deficit, the highest level ever. Over the past 20 years, Canadian spending overseas has decreased only twice—in 1994 and 2002.

Canadian travellers

Almost two-thirds of our tourist revenue is generated within Canada. In 2008, 214.5 million trips were taken by Canadians within Canada. The vast majority of these trips—92%—were within the traveller’s home province.

When Canadians venture abroad, the United States is the number one destination. In 2007, Canadians made 17.8 million overnight visits to the United States: the top five American states were New York, Florida, Washington, Michigan and California.

After the United States, the top five most-visited overseas countries in 2007 (in order) were Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Overnight visits to Mexico were up 21.1% in 2007 from 2006. Spending by Canadian tourists in overseas countries was also up, reaching a record $10.9 billion in 2007.

Visitors to Canada

In 2008, 37.5 million passengers passed through Canada’s airports. The busiest airports were Toronto (Pearson), Vancouver and Montréal (Trudeau). Trains carried 4.3 million passengers in 2007, up 2.2% from 2006. Ferry traffic was estimated at 39.0 million passengers, and cruise traffic at 1.4 million.

Visitors increase

Travel from overseas nations into Canada (same day and overnight) numbered 4.8 million people in 2008, an increase of 85,000 international travellers from the year before.

The number of overnight trips to Canada from countries other than the United States increased 1.7% to 4.6 million. Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, St. Catharines–Niagara and Québec, in that order, were the main tourism hot spots for overseas visitors in 2008.

Most tourists to Canada came from the United Kingdom, followed by France, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Australia.

Eight of the top 12 overseas markets registered increases in overnight trips to Canada in 2008. The strongest growth was from Hong Kong (13.1%), followed by Mexico (11.7%) and France (10.5%). Meanwhile, Japan posted the largest decrease in travellers to Canada with a 16.6% drop.

Travel across the border from our American neighbours also decreased. Overnight travel from the United States to Canada declined 6.6% from 2007 to 2008.