Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Mar 04, 2019

Canadians continue to flock to the USA


Canadians continue to flock south of the border in ever-increasing numbers despite a static 75-cent dollar, according to the latest data compiled by Statistics Canada. Last year’s overnight visitor volume to the US rose 6.2% over the 2017 total to hit 21.5 million the agency reported.

And the demand appears to be accelerating with the December number of 1.5 million rising a full 9.6% over the December 2017 total.

The good news for the travel trade embedded in the new report is that the air sector has been driving most of the demand boost. Southbound air travel numbers rose an astonishing 17.1% in the final month of 2018, resulting in a year-over-year increase of 12.3%.

In stark contrast, the overnight drive market to the United States was virtually stagnant last year, showing a paltry 1.7% increase over 2017.

Given the anecdotal evidence that, overall, air travellers spend more money in the US than wheeled visitors, the 9.6 million 2018 flyers were probably of greater financial value to the destination than the 11.7 million drivers.

US commerce department economist Mark Brown pointed out that “the transportation segment reported by Statistics Canada is the mode used to clear Canada customs.”

So highlighting a bizarre statistical twist, he quipped, “Thus travellers who drive to the USA to fly out of US airports are considered land travellers and that’s how 7% or so of Canadian visitors to Hawaii `drove’ there.”

The not-so-good news for the industry from the preliminary report is that Canadian travel to the rest of the world outside the US was down 7% last year.

According to the report, last year didn’t turn out to be a banner year for northbound travel either, with total US-originating overnight arrivals increasing a mere 0.4% over the 2017 total.

And that was only due to a year-over-year 2.6% rise in land crossings to nine million because, in the same period, the number of air arrivals slumped 4.1% to 4.6 million.

On the plus side, but only just, arrivals from the rest of the world were up 1.4% in 2018.