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International Travel


Overview of trends 2005

Worldwide international tourism reaches new high in 2005

International tourism worldwide exceeded all expectations in 2005, as the number of international tourist arrivals surpassed 800 million for the first time ever. Record levels were reached despite numerous issues facing the tourism industry such as terrorism, natural disasters, health scares, oil price rises, exchange rate fluctuations and economic and political uncertainties.

According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), international tourist arrivals, which exclude arrivals by same-day visitors, climbed to 806 million in 2005, 5.5% more than the previous year. As a result, worldwide international tourism receipts reached a record $680 billion US (in constant dollars). The increase in receipts, estimated at $47 billion US, is comparable to Spain's international tourism receipts, the world's second biggest tourism earner.

Increases in international tourist arrivals were observed in all regions of the globe. Leading the way was Africa, which recorded an 8.5% gain over 2004, followed by Asia and the Pacific (+7.8%), Middle East (+7.7%), the Americas (+6.2%) and Europe (+4.0%). All of these regions have shown an increasing trend over the last five years, ranging from an average annual growth of 10.1% (Middle East) to 0.8% (Americas). In fact, out of all the sub-regions, only North America has shown an average annual decline over the last five years (-0.3%).

France remained the top destination in 2005 with 76.0 million international tourist arrivals, followed by Spain and the United States. For the second year in a row, Canada did not break the top-ten, a feat it had previously achieved every year since 1992.

                             International tourist arrivals Rank
2004 2005 Percentage change 2004 to 2005
     millions    percent   number 
Europe    424.4    441.5    4.0    1
Asia and the Pacific    144.2    155.4    7.8    2
Americas    125.7    133.5    6.2    3
Africa    33.8    36.7    8.5    4
Middle East    21.1    23.0    9.1    5
World    764.0    806.0    5.5    
Source(s): World Tourism Organization.

Overnight travel to Canada surpasses same-day travel for first time ever

More than half of all travel to Canada in 2005 was for one or more nights, as overnight travel from abroad surpassed same-day travel for the first time ever. Of the 36.2 million trips to Canada, 51.5% was considered overnight travel. The shift was the result of a prolonged downswing in same-day travel, which consists mostly of car trips from the United States.

Chart 1International trips to Canada, 1996 to 2005

Travel from the United States dwindles as same-day trips hit record low

Americans made fewer than 31.7 million trips in Canada in 2005, the lowest level since the late 1970s. The 8.6% drop from 2004 was mostly attributable to a sharp decline in same-day travel, which fell 11.6% to 17.3 million trips. Plummeting same-day travel from the United States has been a continuing trend in recent years. Since 1999, it has fallen 41.4%.

Higher gas prices, an unfavorable exchange rate and increasing uncertainty surrounding border security policies might explain the drop in same-day travel from the United States.

Overnight travel from the United States also fell in 2005, down 4.6% to 14.4 million trips. This was only the second decline in overnight travel since 1996. In 2003, overnight travel from the United States had fallen 12.0% following the SARS-related health scare.

Travel from overseas countries returns to pre-9/11 levels

Travel from overseas countries climbed to a five-year high of 4.5 million trips in 2005, up 6.8% from the previous year. Visitors from overseas countries are rapidly returning to Canada, with an increase in travel of 32.8% since 2003. Travellers from countries other than the United States had shied away from Canada following 9/11 and leading up to the SARS health scare in 2003.

Increases were observed in both same-day and overnight travel from overseas countries in 2005. Overnight travel jumped by 7.1% to 4.2 million. Same-day travel, which consists mostly of side-trips from the United States, was up 3.0% and represented 6.3% of all trips from overseas countries.

Chart 2Overnight trips to Canada

Canadian travel abroad highest in five years

Travel abroad climbed to a five-year high as Canadian residents took 44.0 million trips outside the country in 2005, an increase of 5.4% over the previous year. Travel to both the United States and overseas countries was up, with Canadians taking a record number of trips to non-US destinations. Overnight travel abroad climbed to a 13-year high in 2005, up 7.6% to 21.1 million trips.

Canadians took an estimated 37.8 million trips to the United States, up 4.8% from 2004. Same-day travel to the United States increased for the second straight year, up 3.3% to 22.9 million trips, after recording year-over-year declines since 1991.

Travel to overseas countries continued its upward trend in 2005, with Canadians taking more trips than ever to countries other than the United States. Travel to overseas countries has been the only constant in travel between Canada and other countries, increasing steadily since the early 1980s. Since 1981, travel to non-US destinations has fallen only three times, increasing more than four-fold to 6.2 million trips in the process.

Chart 3International trips by Canadian residents

United States market

Both pleasure and business travel, which represented about 90.0% of the 14.4 million overnight trips from the United States, fell in 2005. Pleasure travel, which accounted for 76.2% of overnight trips, dropped 5.4% while business travel slipped 1.3%.

Pleasure travel includes holidays and vacations, visiting friends and relatives, visiting a second home, cottage or condo and attending events and attractions. Business travel includes attending meetings, conventions, conferences, trade shows and seminars and participating in other work-related matters.

Travel by car and plane, which represented 88.2% of overnight traffic from the United States in 2005, fell 6.7% and 0.4%, respectively. Travel by bus increased 9.6% from the previous year. Overnight travel by other modes of transportation dropped 7.5%.

The drop in overnight travel from the United States pushed spending on overnight trips downward by 8.6% to $7.5 billion in 2005. American residents spent 57.3 million nights in Canada, and like the previous year, averaged 4.0 nights per stay. On average, they spent $130 per night, $4 less than in 2004.

Tourists from Florida and Texas not shying away

Of the top-15 states of origin of American tourists to Canada, only three posted increases in overnight travel to Canada. Texas and Florida showed significant increases of 20.1% and 10.5% respectively, while overnight travel from Minnesota went up 2.8%.

Overnight travel from New York State, Canada's most important US market, fell 6.0% to 1.8 million trips while, among the top-15 states of origin, Massachusetts posted the largest decline in overnight travel to Canada (-12.8%).

There was no movement within the top-nine US markets, with Michigan, Washington, California and Ohio rounding out the top-five. Oregon bumped New Hampshire out of the top-15.

                                            2004 2005 Percentage change  2004 to 2005
   thousands  percent
New York  1,885  1,771  -6.0
Michigan  1,722  1,689  -2.0
Washington  1,530  1,464  -4.3
California  934  877  -6.1
Ohio  792  698  -11.8
Pennsylvania  682  642  -5.9
Massachusetts  635  554  -12.8
Minnesota  530  545  2.8
Illinois  488  477  -2.2
Florida  421  466  10.5
Texas  349  419  20.1
New Jersey  427  417  -2.5
Wisconsin  345  328  -5.0
Maine  306  284  -7.2
Oregon  282  265  -6.2

Drops in overnight visits observed in all provinces

All provinces recorded fewer overnight visits by American residents in 2005, with Prince Edward Island observing the largest decline (-18.5%). Overnight visits to Ontario, the most popular province among American tourists, fell by 3.4%. Both Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories recorded increases in overnight visits from the United States.

                                            2004 2005 Percentage change  2004 to 2005
      thousands     percent
Ontario     7,466     7,214     -3.4
British Columbia     3,711     3,536     -4.7
Quebec     2,363     2,196     -7.1
Alberta     1,030     961     -6.7
Nova Scotia     455     412     -9.5
New Brunswick     440     372     -15.3
Manitoba     341     293     -14.2
Territories 1     251     257     2.5
Saskatchewan     201     181     -9.9
Prince Edward Island     190     155     -18.5
Newfoundland and Labrador     55     51     -7.9
1. Includes Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut Territory.

Overseas market

Higher business and pleasure travel both contributed to the five-year high of 4.2 million overnight trips from overseas countries to Canada in 2005. Pleasure travel accounted for 74.6% of overnight trips and increased 5.1% from 2004. Business travel from overseas countries jumped 13.6%.

Spending in Canada by tourists from overseas countries climbed to $5.8 billion, mirroring the 7.0% increase in overnight trips. The number of nights spent in Canada, however, was up 9.0% to 68.3 million. As a result, the average length of stay of tourists from overseas countries went up from 15.9 to 16.2 nights. They spent $84 per night compared to $86 the previous year.

Central America: the only region sending fewer tourists

Travel to Canada from all corners of the globe increased in 2005, with Central America being the lone exception. Overnight travel from South America posted the largest increase (+29.1%) while travel from Europe, which houses over half of all overseas tourists to Canada, registered gains of 8.0%. Travel from Central America slipped 2.1%.

The ranking of Canada's four most important overseas markets remained unchanged, with the United Kingdom leading the way with 888,000 overnight trips to Canada in 2005, followed by Japan (398,000), France (351,000) and Germany (311,000). Compared with 2004, no country moved in or out of the top-12, with little movement within the list.

                                            2004 2005 Percentage change  2004 to 2005
   thousands  percent
United Kingdom  801  888  10.8
Japan  391  398  1.8
France  337  351  4.3
Germany  296  311  4.9
Mexico  169  179  6.1
Australia  174  179  3.0
South Korea  164  173  5.1
Netherlands  114  118  3.2
China  95  113  18.7
Hong Kong  115  109  -5.3
Taiwan  106  98  -7.7
Switzerland  89  97  9.2

Ontario still most visited province

About 2.0 million travellers from overseas stayed in Ontario overnight in 2005, up 9.6% from the previous year. While most provinces observed increases in overnight visits, Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw significant declines of 28.1% and 12.8%, respectively. Prince Edward Island welcomed 31.5% more tourists from overseas.

Outbound market

Of the 21.1 million outbound trips taken by Canadian tourists in 2005, a record-high 29.5% were to overseas destinations. Canadian tourists are increasingly choosing to travel overseas rather than to the United States, as the proportion of trips to non-US destinations has risen every year since 1999.

Residents of Ontario took 9.9 million overnight trips abroad, or 47.0% of all overnight outbound trips, followed far behind by residents from Quebec (18.5%) and British Columbia (16.3%). Residents of Prince Edward Island travelled the least, taking 33,000 overnight trips outside Canada.

Both overnight business and pleasure travel by Canadians abroad were higher in 2005. While pleasure travel increased 6.9%, business travel jumped 12.9%. Almost four out of five outbound trips taken by Canadian tourists were for pleasure travel in 2005.

Overnight travel to the United States reaches 8-year high

Canadian tourists made 14.9 million trips to the United States in 2005, an increase of 7.3% and the highest level since 1997. Travel by car, which accounted for nearly 60% of all overnight trips to the United States, edged up 5.7% to 8.6 million despite ballooning gas prices. Increases were also observed in overnight travel by plane (+11.7%) and bus (+10.3%).

With more Canadian tourists travelling to the United States, spending on overnight trips jumped 10.1% in 2005, reaching $9.5 billion. Also, 117.2 million nights were spent in the United States, 9.4% more than the previous year. On average, Canadian tourists stayed 7.9 nights in the United States and spent $81 a night.

Canadians travel to New York State often but spend the most in Florida

Canadians took 2.3 million overnight visits to New York State in 2005, more than any other state. However, Canadian residents spent much more in Florida. In fact, despite attracting about 300,000 fewer Canadian tourists than New York State, Florida cashed in $2.3 billion, more than three times the total amount spent by Canadians staying one or more nights in New York. This contradiction is explained by the average length of stay in each state. On overnight visits, Canadians spent an average of 19.0 nights in Florida compared to 3.0 nights in New York.

Out of the top-15 states visited by Canadian residents staying one or more nights, only Minnesota attracted fewer tourists than the previous year. Overnight visits to Nevada jumped 22.3%.

                                            Overnight visits
2004 2005 Percentage change  2004 to 2005
    thousands   percent
New York   2,257   2,344   3.8
Florida   1,911   2,038   6.7
Washington   1,552   1,612   3.9
Michigan   1,143   1,239   8.4
California   983   1,008   2.5
Nevada   761   931   22.3
Maine   686   734   7.0
Pennsylvania   591   646   9.2
Vermont   597   644   7.8
Minnesota   607   593   -2.3
Ohio   495   511   3.2
Massachusetts   459   505   10.2
Virginia   437   466   6.7
Montana   441   459   4.1
South Carolina   398   445   11.7

Record number of Canadians travel overseas

Canadians made an unprecedented 6.2 million overnight trips overseas in 2005, 8.5% more than in 2004. Aside from SARS-affected 2003, travel to overseas countries has increased every year since 1991.

Record travel spurred record spending, as Canadian tourists dished out $9.4 billion in overseas countries, up 7.0% from the previous year. They stayed a total of 106.7 million nights in countries other than the United States, averaging 17.1 nights per stay. Canadian tourists spent an average of $88 per night in overseas countries.

United Kingdom remains most popular overseas destination

Canadians made 898,000 overnight visits to the United Kingdom in 2005, making it the most popular overseas destination among Canadian tourists. In recent years, the United Kingdom and Mexico have shared the distinction of being the most visited overseas countries by Canadian tourists. Rounding out the top-five were France, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, unchanged from 2004.

Among the top-15 countries visited by Canadians staying one or more nights, Italy posted the largest increase. With 383,000 visitors from Canada, Italy welcomed 50.0% more Canadians than 2004. The death of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent installation of Pope Benedict XVI likely contributed to the increase.

                                            Overnight visits
2004 2005 Percentage change  2004 to 2005
   thousands  percent
United Kingdom  754  898  19.1
Mexico  705  794  12.6
France  590  616  4.4
Cuba  570  518  -9.1
Dominican Republic  527  506  -3.9
Italy  255  383  50.0
Germany  328  317  -3.2
Netherlands  188  197  4.8
Spain  166  170  2.3
China  162  161  -0.7
Hong Kong  149  151  1.3
Japan  161  143  -11.3
Switzerland  142  139  -2.0
Austria  116  128  10.9
Australia  108  121  12.4

International travel account

Note: The International Travel Account is a component of the Balance of Payments. It includes spending as identified by the International Travel Survey, as well as education spending, medical spending and spending by crew members. For this reason, International Travel Account data differs from data collected by the International Travel Survey.

Canada’s international travel deficit highest in 12 years

Higher spending abroad pushed Canada's international travel deficit to a 12-year high in 2005, as both Canadian spending in the United States and overseas reached record levels.

The deficit – the difference between spending by Canadians abroad and spending by foreigners in Canada – totalled an estimated $5.8 billion in 2005, up $1.8 billion from the previous year. The 2005 deficit was the fourth largest ever, with higher deficits in only 1991, 1992 and 1993. Since 2002, the deficit has more than tripled.

The increase in the deficit was fuelled mostly by record spending abroad, which reached $22.3 billion in 2005, 7.3% higher than the previous year.

Despite a 1.7% drop, foreign spending in Canada hit $16.5 billion, its third highest level ever. Prior to 2005, foreign spending in Canada had increased every year since 1987, except for the SARS-induced decline in 2003.

Chart 4Canada's international travel deficit

Travel deficit with the US highest in nearly a decade

Canada’s travel deficit with the United States reached $3.4 billion in 2005, the highest level since 1996. The jump in the deficit, estimated at $1.7 billion, was the second largest ever, with only the 1990 deficit increasing by a wider margin. That year, higher spending in the United States was the main cause. In 2005, lower spending by American residents in Canada and increased spending by Canadian residents in the United States were both contributing factors.

Spending in the United States topped the $12-billion mark for the first time in 2005, up $872 million to $12.4 billion. American spending in Canada fell to $9.0 billion, 8.7% lower than in 2004.

The Canadian dollar averaged 0.83 $US in 2005, up 7.4% from the previous year and the highest level since 1992.

Travel deficit with overseas countries up for fifth consecutive year

Canada’s travel deficit with overseas countries increased for the fifth consecutive year in 2005, reaching $2.4 billion. Canadian spending overseas and spending by residents of overseas countries in Canada both reached record levels in 2005. However, the increase in spending by Canadians overseas outpaced the growth in spending by residents of overseas countries in Canada by $64 million.

Canadians spent an estimated $9.8 billion in overseas countries in 2005, up 7.0% from the previous year. Canadian spending overseas has increased every year since 1991. Spending by overseas travellers in Canada climbed to $7.5 billion in 2005, an 8.4% increase from the previous year.

The Canadian dollar gained in value against other major international currencies in 2005, including the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

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