TIAO calls for mitigation on visa rules for Mexican visitors

The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) is calling on the federal government to mitigate the immediate financial impact of recent visa requirement changes for Mexican citizens travelling to Canada.

Under the new requirement, a visitor visa is now required for all travel to Canada by car, bus, train, or boat.

To be eligible for the electronic travel authorization (eTA), Mexican citizens must have held a Canadian visa in the past 10 years or hold a valid U.S. non-immigrant visa, travel by air on a valid Mexican passport, and come to Canada for a short visit (up to six months). These changes will create significant disruptions for approximately 40 per cent of the Mexican visitor market and the tourism operators that rely on their business, TIAO says.

Mexico is one of Ontario’s top five international markets, accounting for $236 million in visitor spending and 230,600 visits annually. With visitors staying in Ontario for an average of sixteen days, the resulting spending at accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and retail is a direct generator of revenue for multiple destinations and substantial tax dollars for provincial and federal governments.

As other international markets continue to recover, Mexico is currently Ontario’s top-performing visitor market. For many tour operators and motor coaches, for instance, Mexican visitors represent 24 per cent of their total charter revenues for March to December 2024.

A financial affect on tourism

The visa requirement changes are already having an immediate financial impact on tourism businesses—notably tour operators, as many visitors with pre-booked travel in the next 30 to 60 days may be unable to obtain the required visa in time.

As such, the visa requirement changes have already wiped out April-May for many tourism businesses and caused financial hardship for those now facing cancellation fees and losses.

“The negative financial impact of the visa requirement changes comes at a time when tourism businesses are still recovering,” said Andrew Siegwart, president and CEO of TIAO. “As tourism operators continue to shoulder the burden of debt repayments, labour shortages, inflation, and rising commercial costs, we need policy measures that make it easier—not more difficult—for visitors to come to Canada.”

TIAOMotor Coach Canada (MCC), the Ontario Motor Coach Association (OMCA), and industry partners are urging the federal government to implement an expedited visa processing time for those with pre-booked (i.e., prior to the announcement) departures to Canada.

To promote visitor economy growth, they are also calling on the federal government to consider future measures to expedite visa processing for key international visitor markets.

“With the recent international student cap and now the visa requirement for Mexican visitors, we are concerned about what appears to be a hardening of Canada’s borders. Given that tourism economic growth is dependent upon leveraging global talent and cultivating more repeat international visitation, we are concerned about the implications for the future of Ontario’s visitor economy,” Siegwart said. “I urge our federal partners to consult with TIAO and our industry partners on any future measures that might impact Ontario’s tourism industry. We are here to provide solutions.”

Visit TIAO’s website to learn more about TIAO’s ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of Ontario’s tourism industry.