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Canada 150 Celebrations, a Low Canadian Dollar, and New Flight Routes Helped Propel International Visits to Over 23 Million in 2017

Ottawa, December 20, 2017—With the Canadian economy picking up the pace, rising confidence among households and businesses, and major celebrations across the country, 2017 was a very successful year for tourism in Canada. In fact, overnight visits to and within Canada are expected to have increased by 3.1 per cent this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Travel Markets Outlook for both national and metropolitan cities. Next year, more modest— but still healthy—growth of 2.5 per cent is forecast.

“The hundreds of events organized in communities across the country to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday attracted visitors from both near and far, and contributed to a banner year for tourism in 2017,” said Greg Hermus, Associate Director for The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Tourism Research Institute. “With this major milestone behind us, we can anticipate more subdued growth going forward. However, tourism will continue to be boosted by the low Canadian dollar, increased direct air capacity, and new marketing efforts.”

Domestic overnight travel is expected to grow by 2.9 per cent this year, with slightly lower growth of 2.3 per cent anticipated for 2018. Improvements in direct air connectivity should help grow domestic pleasure travel and business travel by improving convenience and offering more competitive travel choices. The environment also remains conducive for growing business travel in Canada even though economic growth is expected to moderate next year.

Overnight visits from the U.S. are expected to expand by 2.7 per cent this year and another 2.7 per cent increase is forecast for next year. While the favourable exchange rate is an obvious driver behind this growth, tourism organizations have been increasingly targeting their marketing campaigns to attract more U.S. travellers. Going forward, potential further increases in gas prices and prospects that the Canadian dollar could slowly appreciate will ease growth in visitors from the U.S.

Overseas visits to Canada are expected to grow by 7.1 per cent this year and are slated to reach 6.2 per cent in 2018. This year, the biggest increase (45.1 per cent) will come from Mexico thanks to a number of factors, including Canada’s decision to lift its visa requirement, an increase in direct air capacity between the two countries, and Donald Trump’s perceived disparaging statements toward Mexico. Next year, travel from China should be stimulated by the Canada-China Year of Tourism, which was initiated to boost tourism flows in both directions.

Regional Highlights

Of the ten Canadian cities covered in the Travel Markets Outlook: Metropolitan Focus, most experienced tourism growth between 3.0 per cent and 5.5 per cent this year. Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal will have seen the strongest growth in overnight visits this year at 5.5 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively, while Toronto and Vancouver will have the strongest increase next year at 3.4 per cent each.


Boosted by the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the favourable exchange rate, overnight visits to Halifax are forecast to have expanded by 4.0 per cent this year. In 2018, overnight visits are projected to increase by 3.1 per cent thanks in part to the opening of the Nova Centre.


Buoyed by the many festivals and events celebrating Montréal’s 375th birthday, overall overnight travel will increase by a healthy 5.1 per cent this year, second only to Ottawa. Coming off such a strong year, it is not surprising that growth expectations are more modest next year. Still, annual growth of 2.2 per cent or higher is anticipated over the next five years.

Québec City

While tourism activity in Québec City was partly overshadowed by Montréal’s 375th birthday celebrations this year, overnight visits to the city increased by a healthy 3.1 per cent this year. Further growth of 2.7 per cent expected for 2018.


Pleasure travel to the nation’s capital received a solid boost from activities related the 150th anniversary of Confederation. In total, overnight visits to Ottawa-Gatineau are projected to have risen by 5.5 per cent in 2017. While the projections are much more modest for 2018, the volume of overnight visitors should remain elevated, thanks in part to new facilities and the exposure created by the 150th anniversary events.


Overnight visits to Toronto are expected to have grown at a solid 4.0 per cent this year. Going forward, the steady expansion of direct air capacity from domestic, U.S., and overseas source markets is projected to remain a major growth driver.

St. Catharines–Niagara

Like Ottawa-Gatineau and Toronto, the 150th anniversary of Confederation provided a boost in overnight visits to St. Catharine’s-Niagara, as did the city’s offering of accommodation to athletes from the Invictus Games and their families. Overall, overnight visits to the area are forecast to have increased by 3.1 per cent this year, with more modest growth of 2.8 per cent expected in 2018.


Tourism activity in Winnipeg benefited this year from hosting the 2017 Canada Games, strong convention activity, and the Canada 150 celebrations. All in all, overnight visits are projected to increase 3.2 per cent this year and 2.6 per cent in 2018.


This year, overnight visits to Calgary are estimated to increase by 3.6 per cent, with business travel boosted by the recovery of the regional economy. Through to 2021, growth rates of 2.6 per cent or more are projected, supported by solid increases from overseas markets.


Overnight visits to Edmonton this year are projected to have expanded by 3.5 per cent, stimulated by attractions such as the recently opened Rogers Centre arena and by a rebound in the provincial economy. Going forward, growth rates should average 2.5 per cent over the next few years.


Overnight visits to Vancouver are forecast to have increased by 3.0 per cent this year, fuelled by large sporting events and 150th anniversary celebrations. With strong growth from Asian markets, overnight visits are forecast to grow by 3.4 per cent next year.

The Travel Markets Outlook: National Focus and Travel Markets Outlook: Metropolitan Focus are available from our e-Library.

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