Visits to Canada surge in 2016; arrivals up 11% as country hits a 14-year high

Canada’s renewed investment in tourism seems to be working. The low Canadian dollar and U.S. politics also might be helping.

Figures released today by Destination Canada show that arrivals into Canada last year jumped 11% to our highest level in 14 years. Visits from the U.S. reached 13,899,814; up 10%, while international arrivals jumped a whopping 16 %.

In total, Canada attracted 19,979,334 visitors; the second highest amount ever and the highest since 2002.

This year could be even better given it’s our 150th birthday, with parties planned coast to coast, and the continuing low dollar. There also are reports that many international travellers are re-thinking U.S. visits in the wake of President Donald Trump’s proposed travel restrictions, which could lead to more interest in Canada as a North American alternative.

Destination Canada CEO and President David Goldstein called it “great news.”

“Canada is open, welcoming and has something for everyone, and people are seeing that,” he said. “Together with our industry partners we are encouraging travellers to explore Canada and experience a life less ordinary. I couldn’t think of a better time to visit than right now.”

Destination Canada has put a stronger emphasis on the U.S. market of late, and it appears to be paying off. A record-breaking number of Americans came to Canada by air last year, with numbers up 17% over 2015. That’s good for the economy as folks who fly to Canada usually spend more than visitors who drive in for the day to Vancouver or Montreal or Niagara Falls.

Canada received a record 610,139 visitors from China, an increase of 24%. That makes China our third largest market for inbound tourism, behind only the UK and the U.S.

More than 333,000 Australians visited Canada last year; up 16% and a new record. And Canada received 244,442 arrivals from South Korea, up a remarkable 30%. Mexico visits were up 24% to 243,460.

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

The UK remains Canada’s top international (non U.S.) market, with visits last year reaching 833,329. That’s an increase of 17% over 2015. Visits from France, another traditional source of tourism for Canada, were up 9% last year, reaching a record 545,786 arrivals.

Canada last year set record arrival numbers for visits from a large number of countries, including Australia, China, South Korea, France, India and Brazil.

On a provincial level, Ontario received the most arrivals, with 9.4 million. Second was British Columbia at 5.5 million, followed by Quebec at 2.9 million.

You’ll find fantastic coastal scenery all around Newfoundland. – JIM BYERS PHOTO

The report also notes that Canadian visits to the U.S. were down 6.8% last year. But our overseas visits were up 3.7%, which suggests we’re more interested in Europe and Asia these days than we used to be and turned off a bit by the U.S.

Here’s a look at the arrival numbers from our biggest tourism markets for 2016.

US: 13,899,814, up 10%
UK: 833,329, up 17%
China: 610,139, up 24%
France: 545,786, up 9%
Germany: 369,216, up 12%
Australia: 333,437, up 16%
Japan: 303,726: up 10%
South Korea: 244,442, up 30%
Mexico: 243,460, up 24%
India: 215,664; up 135

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