Old Friends Not Visiting as Much; But We Attracted More New Friends!
The data for this summer will not be released until later in the fall, but early signals of what the whole summer will be like are seen in the June results. Although many people believe tourism in Canada only happens in the summer time, and that is probably because the international tourists by sheer volume are more noticeable and because Canadians themselves become tourists more often in the summer, the travel industry is a year round business. It is true that for Canada June, July and August represents over one third of annual trips – in other words, our peak months.
In June, it is interesting that our biggest inbound to Canada visiting countries – USA, UK, France and Germany – all saw decreases in visitation to June last year. These countries represent our traditional markets, or our old friends. China, Australia, Mexico, South Korea and India visitors were all on the rise in June. For the most part these are new friends from new markets.
In June, American visitation was down 0.8%; a market where Canada has seen an over 50% drop since 2000. The UK is our number one overseas market and it dropped 2.6%, while France (-6.7%) and Germany (-4.3%) were also sluggish. China continues to grow significantly since 2010 and the introduction of Approved Destination Status, seeing 22.1% growth in June alone. Australia continues to surprise with 5.0% growth.
India (+2.8%) and South Korea (+6.4%) are very encouraging because of the size of those markets.
It is safe to suggest that these results for June in Canada should follow for the next two summer months of July and August. Although the numbers reflect a good mix of positive and negative results possibly indicating strong growth in international travel, this is not the case. The USA represents by far our largest inbound market outweighing all other international markets combined! An 0.8% decrease in the USA in one month represents about 12,000 visitors and the huge growth from China, Mexico and Australia combined represents less than 11,000 visitors.
Canada is not keeping pace with global growth in tourism revenues and visitations. Canada is growing in both benchmarks by about 2% per year, but this represents half of global percentage growth. In 2002 we were the 7th most visited country in the world – today we rank 18th and slipping. There are a number of reasons for this which are addressed in another article – What Are the Competitive Challenges for Calgary and Canada’s Tourism Sector?.
The good news is that domestic travel – Canadians visiting other Canadian destinations – is strong. Domestic tourism is now the life blood of our tourism sector representing 80% of this country’s $79 billion industry. The bad news is that international tourism to Canada then represents 20% of our tourism economy, whereas only ten years ago international visitors represented 33% of our sales mix. This dependence on one market, as in any business, is not healthy and is risky. Additionally, international visitors stay longer and spend more than domestic travelers.
Keep traveling Canada – it’s a great country and worth exploring!