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Canadian Tourism Gaining Altitude with Addition of New Direct Flights

As Canadian and foreign airlines expand their fleets and add direct connections to many destinations across the country, overnight visits are expected to increase by 3.7 per cent this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Travel Markets Outlook.

Ottawa, May 23, 2017—As Canadian and foreign airlines expand their fleets and add direct connections to many destinations across the country, overnight visits are expected to increase by 3.7 per cent this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Travel Markets Outlook.

“Last year, the low Canadian dollar and energy prices fuelled travel to and within Canada. These factors will continue to benefit tourism growth in 2017. In addition, we expect that new direct flights and Canada’s reputation as a safe travel destination will drive the increased number of international arrivals,” said Greg Hermus, Associate Director for The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Tourism Research Institute.

Domestic pleasure travel is expected to grow by 3.4 per cent in 2017 and will be boosted by two major events: the 150th anniversary of Confederation and Montreal’s 375th anniversary. The weak Canadian dollar will continue to work as a disincentive for Canadians to travel abroad. A positive economic outlook and improvements in the energy sector will help stimulate domestic business travel, which is forecast to experience a 2.2 per cent growth this year. Expanded flight routes across Canada will also make business travel more convenient.

On top of the 9.5 per cent growth in overnight visits from the U.S. witnessed last year, a further 5.3 per cent increase is expected in 2017. While the favourable exchange rate and low gasoline prices are obvious drivers behind this growth, tourism organizations have been increasingly targeting their marketing campaigns to attract more U.S. travellers. In fact, Canada secured the top spot on The New York Times list of travel destinations for 2017.

Outside the United States, solid travel gains are expected from nearly every world region in 2017 with overseas visits to Canada forecast to increase by 8.4 per cent. The strongest growth this year is expected from Mexico at 28.3 per cent. Canada lifted Mexico’s visa requirement in December 2016, which, coupled with the exchange rate and new policies put in place by the Trump administration, might make Canada appear more attractive as a travel destination. Visits from Asia are expected to increase by 13.1 per cent and overnight visits from Europe are slated for 4.5 per cent growth this year.

Regional Highlights

Each of the nine Canadian cities covered in the Travel Markets Outlook: Metropolitan Focus can expect to see tourism growth in 2017. Ottawa-Gatineau will experience the strongest growth in overnight visits in 2017 at 6.0 per cent, as travellers flock to the capital city for the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Ottawa-Gatineau is also expected to experience the strongest growth in domestic pleasure travel at 7.0 per cent.


Building on last year’s strong performance, visits to Halifax should increase due to continued expansion in domestic air capacity and cruise ship activity. Pleasure travel will also benefit from the upgraded Discovery centre and business travel will be aided by the completion of the Nova Scotia Convention Centre. Overnight visits are forecast to grow by 3.2 per cent in 2017.

Quebec City

A strong regional economy and low unemployment will help boost domestic travel in 2017. Tourism activity will also be aided by updated local tourist infrastructure, including a new indoor water park and the expansion of the Musée National des Beaux-arts. Overall, the city is expected to see an increase in overnight visits of 3.8 per cent in 2017.


Events planned to commemorate the city’s 375th anniversary will boost Montreal’s overnight travel by a considerable 5.5 per cent this year. Domestic travel will also benefit from the hosting of large conventions and sporting events.


Pleasure travel to the nation’s capital is expected to receive a solid boost from activities related to the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The city recently hosted the Juno awards and the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup and will host the 105th Grey Cup in November. These major events will contribute to the 6.0 per cent growth in overnight visits expected for 2017.


Pleasure travel to Toronto this year is expected to be boosted by the hosting of major sporting events, including the Invictus Games and NHL’s centennial classic game. Overseas visits will benefit from strong increases in direct air capacity from Mexico, China, and Europe. Overall, overnight visits to Toronto are forecast to increase 4.5 per cent this year.


New direct air capacity from Winnipeg to London helped support growth in pleasure travel in 2016. This year, hosting the Canada Summer Games and a new retail outlet mall will encourage visitors and spur an anticipated 3.3 per cent increase in overnight visits. Solid convention activity should also boost business travel.


In 2016, Calgary’s tourism activity was dampened by weakness in the energy sector, low consumer confidence levels, and weak employment prospects. The outlook for 2017 is more favourable. Overseas visits will benefit from new direct flights from Beijing and Mexico City. Overall, overnight visits to the city and projected to increase 3.2 per cent in 2017.


Overnight visits to Edmonton declined by an estimated 1.4 per cent last year as Alberta’s economy grappled with low energy prices. As the economy slowly rebounds in 2017, pleasure travel will benefit from the recently opened Rogers Place arena and additional hotel inventory. These factors combined with strong growth in arrivals from U.S. and overseas markets will help spur a 2.6 per cent growth in overall overnight visits.


Following a record year for overnight travel, Vancouver should see further growth of 5.0 per cent in overnight visits in 2017. New direct connections from several key source markets and playing host to several major sporting events should boost pleasure travel to the city. Growth from overseas markets is projected to remain strong over the forecast period as air capacity continues to expand.

Greg Hermus and Jennifer Hendry will discuss the latest results of the seasonal travel intentions survey in a live webinar on May 25, 2017 at 2:00 p.m EDT.

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