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How the low Canadian dollar is bringing visitors to Canada at a record rate

Canadian tourism is booming once again, just as it did in the early 2000s, when the dollar was at a similarly low level. The cheap exchange rate has Americans once again heading north, where they can get more bang for their travel buck, especially those who live close to the Canadian border and are only a short car ride away.

However, many travel experts warn that Canada should not depend solely on a low dollar to boost its tourism.

“While the low dollar will draw more Americans to Canada, the Canadian travel industry should not depend on it,” says Rob Taylor in the Globe and Mail. Taylor is vice-president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, which lobbies for the industry.

“I don’t want my industry to be contingent on a low dollar,” he says, adding that the industry also works hard to attract wealthy travellers, who tend to spend more. “We are not a cheap discount destination.”

It’s not just Americans who are taking advantage of the lower cost to travel to Canada. International travellers are also choosing to visit Canada, many of whom would have likely visited the United States, but the rates are just too good to pass up in the Great White North.

Tourism numbers are up across the board

Destination Canada reports that “Canada welcomed 854,300 international visitors in November 2015, up 9% compared to November 2014. From January to November 2015, Canada recorded 16,600,000 international arrivals, up 7.4% relative to 2014.”

The Tourism Snapshot report also found that:

  • Overnight trips to Canada increased by visitors from the United States (11.1%), Europe (1.2%), Asia-Pacific (3.3%) and Latin America (2.8%) (values from November 2015).
  • In November 2015, travel from the United States was higher in arrivals by auto (13.7%) and air (8.1%) compared to the previous year.
  • From January to November 2015, Australia, France, India, Brazil and China experienced the highest levels of overnight arrivals ever.
  • From January to November 2015, arrivals from the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, South Korea and the United States were 72% to 95% of their previously highest levels, recorded in 2007, 1996, 2008, 2007 and 2002, respectively.
  • In the same 11-month period, overnight trips to Canada also increased from Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

These numbers show that more people are not only visiting from the United States, they are coming from all over the world.

Where people are visiting within Canada

Travellers to Canada spend their time primarily in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, and contrary to the upswing in tourism, the number of travellers to Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon decreased in 2015.

Destination Canada found that:

  • The largest increases in total international arrivals to Canada were recorded in Ontario (9.2%), British Columbia (7.7%) and Quebec (7.2%).
  • Manitoba experienced an increase in overnight arrivals by auto from the United States (22.5%), which contributed to its 13.6% increase in total international arrivals compared to 2014.
  • Travel from the United States by auto increased in every province except Nova Scotia.
  • Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec saw an increase in arrivals from the United States by auto and other modes of transportation, as well as from overseas.

Canadians are staying home

The other important factor to consider is that the lower dollar is keeping Canadians home and enticing them to invest in domestic tourism. Rather than take a day trip to the United States, Canadians are now looking for destinations closer to home.

Destination Canada found that:

  • From November 2014 to November 2015, overnight trips from Canada to the United States decreased by 14.1%.
  • From January 2015 to November 2015, overnight trips from Canada to the United States decreased by 9.7%.
  • From November 2014 to November 2015, outbound overnight trips from Canada to international destinations decreased by 7.3%.
  • From January 2015 to November 2015, total outbound trips from Canada decreased by 3.5%.

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