Canada Tourism Expected to Strengthen in 2019

by Richard D’Ambrosio
Canada Tourism Expected to Strengthen in 2019

Toronto, being marketed as a stopover destination for international travelers, “should see a rebound in U.S. and overseas visits this year." Photo: Shutterstock.com.


The number of overnight visits booked from domestic and international travelers in Canada is projected to increase by 2 percent in 2019, despite expectations for “growing economic and financial challenges” in Canadian households, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s annual “Travel Markets Outlook” reports.

The Conference Board’s travel intentions survey found that, “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,” it was revealed in a press statement.

Coupled with slowed travel price inflation and a favorable exchange rate with the Canadian dollar, growth from the U.S. and overseas markets will aid local markets.

Among the 10 Canadian cities covered in the “Travel Markets Outlook: Metropolitan Focus,” growth in overnight visits is expected to average between 1.6 percent and 3.3 percent this year. Vancouver will experience the strongest growth in 2019, the only city where tourism activity is expected to grow by more than 3 percent.

Montreal is forecast to see 2.3 percent growth over the next several years, in part stimulated by large citywide events like the World Summit AI, a major artificial intelligence summit taking place on April 9-21.

Québec City is expected to remain popular with international visitors, and is forecasted to see overnight visits expand at about 2 percent over the next few years; while Toronto, being marketed as a stopover destination for international travelers, “should see a rebound in U.S. and overseas visits this year,” the Conference Board stated, increasing 2.6 percent in 2019.

“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.”

In other Canadian cities and regions, the number of overnight visits to Ottawa fell in 2018 but should see a return to growth in 2019 as a CAD$20 million, five-year renovation to the Ottawa International Airport terminal begins, including the addition of a light rail station at the airport.

Expanded direct air service to Toronto is expected to increase overnight visits in St. Catharines-Niagara 2.2 percent in 2019; while Calgary, this year, will benefit from the Grey Cup and the Canadian Country Music Awards, helping boost tourism 2.8 percent this year.

Calgary’s international visitor arrivals could be boosted by new service being initiated this year by WestJet to London, Paris and Dublin, utilizing the new 320-seat Boeing Co. long-range Dreamliner aircraft. The Dreamliners feature WestJet's first lie-flat business cabin and WestJet’s Premium cabin, with a 2x3x2 configuration. WestJet’s first Dreamliner will fly Toronto-Calgary routes starting Feb. 20 to acclimate the carrier’s crew, before the first international service departs from Calgary to London (Gatwick) on Apr. 28. The second and third WestJet Dreamliners will be delivered in February and March this year and will serve the Calgary-Paris and Calgary-Dublin routes.

Meanwhile, Edmonton will see growth of 2.3 percent in overnight visits this year, supported by the city hosting a leg of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Mixed Relay Series and the World Triathlon Series.  

Two impediments
While modest growth is welcomed this year, the Conference Board acknowledged two potential issues that could impact tourism in Canada. Foremost is a recently issued Chinese government travel advisory about Canada, which represents “a downside risk” for the overall forecast, the Board said.

China is Canada’s second most important overseas market, and the two countries celebrated their growing economic relationship in 2018. When the country’s government assisted the U.S. in arresting a telecom executive visiting the country, that relationship soured to some degree.

Additionally, “one potential challenge to future growth” for Vancouver would be the “worsening wildfires” in and around the city. While the Board noted that the recent fires do not directly impact Vancouver, they have left “a heavy lingering haze over the city and surrounding areas during fire season.”

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