The number of overnight visits from both within Canada and international markets is projected to increase by 2% this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s Travel Markets Outlook reports.
While Canadian households are expected to face growing economic and financial challenges heading into 2019, domestic travel volumes are still projected to increase. According to a travel intentions survey, a growing share of Canadian households plan to take a winter vacation, and among those, a slightly higher share plan to stay in Canada for their longest-duration trip. Meanwhile, growth from the US and overseas markets is expected to strengthen this year, as travel price inflation eases and a favourable exchange rate for many international markets remains.
“Tourism activity in 2018 was weighed down by a number of factors, including rising travel prices, the weaker economic environment and lack of major events like those that happened in 2017,” said Greg Hermus, associate director for The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Tourism Research Institute. “Fortunately, 2019 should see stronger growth in tourism activity thanks to more modest increases in travel prices and easing uncertainty surrounding trade negotiations.”
The recently issued travel advisory for Canada from the Chinese government presents a downside risk to the tourism forecast. International markets represent the strongest growth prospects for overnight visits to the country and China is Canada’s second most important overseas market.
Among the 10 Canadian cities covered in the Travel Markets Outlook: Metropolitan Focus, growth in overnight visits is expected to average between 1.6% and 3.3% this year. Vancouver will experience the strongest growth in 2019 and will be the only city where tourism activity expands by more than 3%.
Halifax: Travel to Halifax should be boosted by the city’s hosting the 2019 Memorial Cup and the World Under-19 Men’s Floorball Championships. Overnight visits are projected to average 2% over the next few years.
Montreal: Tourist activity in 2019 will be stimulated by the city’s hosting of World Summit AI – a major artificial intelligence summit. Events like this, coupled with major infrastructure coming into service and an expanding local economy, will help overnight visits to grow at a healthy clip over the next few years, averaging 2.3% per year.
Québec City: Québec City saw a strong increase in overnight visits in 2018, thanks to a boost from hosting the G7 Summit, strong growth from the US and overseas markets, and a strong local economy. With continuing gains expected from international arrivals, overnight visits should expand at annual rates of growth of around 2% over the next few years.
Ottawa: The number of overnight visits to Ottawa fell in 2018, but should pick up this year, thanks to new infrastructure and growth in international visits. Major investments such as renovations to the Ottawa International Airport terminal, and the addition of a light-rail station at the airport, are expected to pay dividends in the years to come.
Toronto: Coming off a modest year, tourism activity in Toronto should pick up speed in 2019. The city has marketed itself as a stopover destination for international travellers and should see a rebound in US and overseas visits this year. A major upgrade to its public transit system should benefit tourist activity in the years to come. Overnight visits are projected to increase by 2.6% in 2019.
St. Catharines-Niagara: Tourism activity in St. Catharines-Niagara region will benefit from the expanded direct air capacity in neighbouring Toronto. In all, overseas visits are expected to grow by a stronger 2.2% in 2019 and will increase at a steady pace over the next few years.
Winnipeg: Following strong growth in 2018, overnight visits to Winnipeg are expected to moderate this year. Tourism activity should get a strong boost in 2020 as Manitoba celebrates the 150th anniversary of its joining Confederation.
Calgary: Pleasure travel will receive a boost with the city’s hosting of large events in 2019, including the Grey Cup and the Canadian Country Music Awards. In all, overnight visits to Calgary are expected to grow by 2.8% this year.
Edmonton: Edmonton will see growth of 2.3% in overnight visits this year. Domestic visits should get a boost as the city hosts a leg of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Mixed Relay Series and the World Triathlon Series. Meanwhile, visits from the US and overseas are projected to pick up speed.
Vancouver: The projected robust economic growth in the province and strong influx of tourists from overseas markets will continue to be the major sources of growth for tourism in Vancouver. One potential challenge to future growth would be the worsening wildfires, which don’t directly impact Vancouver, but leave a heavy lingering haze over the city and surrounding areas during fire season. In all, overnight visits are forecast to grow by 3.3% this year.