Canada is a popular tourist destination with visitors coming to see its stunning natural landscapes, vibrant cities, and the Northern Lights among many other attractions. Each year, Canada’s travel industry makes a significant contribution to the country’s economy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic stopped all tourism and the travel industry was one of the worst affected industries.

In this article, we explore the travel industry in Canada through statistics including how it has recovered since the pandemic and what its future might look like.

Travel Industry Statistics for Canadians

  • It is estimated that by the end of 2023, the Canadian travel industry will employ 1.64 million people.
  • In 2022, the contribution of the travel industry to the Canadian economy grew by 41.4% compared to 2021.
  • In June 2023, the number of visitors to Canada was 83% of the number in June 2019, showing strong signs of recovery.
  • There were 699,900 trips to Canada by residents from overseas countries and 2.6 million trips by US residents in June 2023.
  • In June 2023, over 3 million Canadians travelled abroad, either to the United States or overseas.
  • In the first quarter of 2023, spending by domestic tourists was up, while spending from non-resident tourists was slightly down.
  • Cruise holidays are a fast-growing sector of the travel industry, with the number of trips almost 40% higher in June 2023 than the same month before the pandemic.
  • In 2022, almost 80% of holidays were booked online in Canada.
  • The travel industry’s workforce is young with over 30% of employees being between 15 and 24 years old.
  • At the end of the first quarter of 2023, 126,345 jobs remained unfilled in the travel industry.
  • The Canadian travel industry is expected to have recovered fully from the pandemic by 2026.

Travel Industry in Canada

The Canadian travel industry is showing strong signs of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now on target to contribute over $162 billion to the economy of Canada in 2023.

Data from the World Travel & Tourism Council shows that the travel industry in Canada is close to the pre-pandemic peak of 2019 when it contributed $173.9 billion to the economy. The contribution of the travel industry in Canada grew by 41.4% in 2022, when it reached over $138 billion. That represents 5% of Canada’s economy or one dollar in every $20 being generated by the Canadian travel industry.

International Travel

In 2022, the spending by international travellers to Canada grew by 64% and reached almost $23 billion. Despite the impressive growth, the figure was still 47% lower than before the pandemic when spending by international travellers was the highest ever at $42.9 billion.

According to Statistics Canada, in June 2023, the number of returning Canadian residents and non-resident visitors to Canada was getting closer to pre-pandemic levels. The total number of visitors and returning travellers was 83% of the June 2019 figure.

Overseas Visitors to Canada

In June 2023, there were 699,900 trips to Canada by residents from overseas countries. This was 78.7% of the number of arrivals from overseas in June 2019. Compared to the previous June, the number of overseas visitors was 50.8% higher.

The number of visitors from European countries was up by 24.4% from 224,700 in June 2022 to 304,300 in June 2023. It was 80.4% of the number of visits in June 2019. The number of visitors from Asia more than doubled from 99,000 in June 2022 to 206,900 in June 2023. This was 69% of the pre-pandemic figure. The lower recovery percentage shows that travel from Asia has been slower to recover.

Visitors from the United States

The residents of the United States took 2.6 million trips to Canada in June 2023. This was 52.6% higher than the number of visitors in the previous June when there were 1.7 million trips from the US to Canada. The June 2023 figure represented 87,8% of the pre-pandemic numbers.

The arrivals by land increased by 61.3% from 1 million to 1.7 million. The majority of these trips were taken by automobiles at 1.6 million, while 48,200 were by bus, 23,700 by train, and 22,700 by cyclists or pedestrians. 42.3% of visits by automobile were one-day trips.

Canadians Travelling Abroad

Since the restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted, Canadians have returned to travelling abroad. In 2023, there was a 34.4% increase in the number of trips Canadians were taking abroad. In total, 3.4 million Canadian residents returned home after trips abroad in June 2023.

Trips to Overseas Destinations

The number of overseas trips made by Canadians was up from 571,700 in June 2022 to 653,100 in June 2023. This represents a 14.3% increase in a year and 83.7% of the trips taken in June 2019.

Trips to the United States by Canadians

In June 2023, Canadians made 2.8 million trips across the border to the United States. This was an increase of 40.2% compared to June 2022, when Canadians made 2 million trips to the US. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, it was 79.8% of the trips completed in June 2019.

At 2 million, the vast majority of the trips to the US were by automobile and 66.7% of these trips were one-day trips. There were 645,200 trips by air, which represents a 43.9% increase compared to June 2022. It was also 1% higher than in June 2019.

Tourism Spending in Canada

During the first quarter of 2023, the domestic tourism spending in Canada was $15.6 billion, representing a 3.5% increase. Food and beverage services grew by 6.1%, air transport by 4.6%, and accommodation services by 4.4%. Compared to pre-pandemic spending, domestic spending was 86.7% of the spending in the final quarter of 2019.

After increases in spending by international visitors in the last three quarters of 2022, the spending was down slightly, by 0.1% in the first quarter of 2023. Overnight trips by non-residents decreased by 0.4% but same-day trips increased by 10.5%. The largest decline was in spending on passenger air transport at 3.2%.

Cruise Trips Are Popular in Canada

Cruise ship holidays are a fast-growing holiday type in Canada. In June 2023, Canadians took 21,000 cruise trips, representing a 39.7% increase compared to June 2019.

During the same month, there were 271,900 cruise trips taken by US residents and 32,300 by overseas residents. The number of cruise trips by US residents was 30.1% higher than in June 2019. The number of cruises taken by overseas residents did not yet reach pre-pandemic levels, representing 81.7% of June 2019 trips.

Canadians Book Most of Their Holidays Online

For several years now, Canadians have booked the majority of their holidays online. According to Statista, in 2017, Canadians booked 29% of their holidays offline and 71% online. By 2022, only 24% were booked offline and 76% online. If the same change rate continues, by 2027, only around 18% of holidays will be booked offline, while 82% will be online bookings.

Working in the Travel Industry

In 2022, the travel industry created 169,000 more jobs than it did the year before, increasing the number of jobs in the industry to 1.55 million. That represented one out of every thirteen jobs in Canada. During the pandemic, the sector lost 283,500 jobs but had recovered 124,000 of them by the end of 2022.

It is predicted that by the end of 2023, the industry will have created around 90,000 new jobs. This will increase the number of people working in the travel industry in Canada to 1.64 million. Should this happen, it would mean that almost all the jobs lost because of the pandemic would have been recovered.

While the travel industry is an important employment sector in Canada, many of the employees in the sector are young. The Canadian census from 2016 showed that 31% of the travel industry workforce was aged between 15 and 24. The same age group represents just 13% of the overall labour force in Canada.

The travel industry is also an important source of employment for immigrants to Canada. According to the 2016 census, 28% of the industry’s employees were non-permanent residents or recent immigrants.

The biggest employer within the industry is food and beverage services, which employed approximately 838,000 people in 2022. It is followed by recreation and entertainment with 508,600 employees and transportation with 267,300 employees.

Employee Shortages

While the increase in travel has created new jobs within the travel industry, many of these jobs remain unfilled. According to Destination Canada, at the end of the first quarter of 2023, there were 126,345 unfilled jobs in the travel and tourism industry. This represents 6.8% of the jobs.

There are several reasons for the shortages, some of which are a result of COVID-19-related changes. For example, many younger workers returned to studying during the pandemic or shifted from full-time to part-time work. The pandemic also prompted many older employees in the industry to retire early.

These changes have coincided with changing demographics in Canada, such as a slower birth rate and an ageing population.

Travel Industry Predictions in Canada

It is predicted that Canada’s travel industry will continue to grow and will contribute around $238 billion to Canada’s GDP over the next ten years. This would represent 7% of the overall economy of Canada.

Domestic tourism spending is expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023. Spending by tourists from the United States is expected to recover next and be back to or overtake 2019 levels in 2023 while spending by overseas travellers is expected to recover fully in 2025. In terms adjusted to inflation, the overall tourism spending will recover fully by 2026.

As the travel industry continues to grow, it will create more new jobs. It is estimated that by 2033, around 2.1 million Canadians will work in the travel industry. This would mean that one out of every eleven jobs in Canada is within the travel and tourism industry.

Conclusion

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the travel industry was one of the worst affected industries with both international and domestic travel prohibited. It has taken a while to recover but is now showing good signs of recovery with both domestic and international trip numbers getting closer to pre-pandemic figures.

Domestic travel is expected to be the first to recover fully, followed by trips by US residents, and then the rest of the world. As the industry continues to recover, it has created more employment opportunities for Canadians. However, the industry is still facing staff shortages following the pandemic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canada is a popular tourist destination and before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people travelling to Canada was increasing every year. The tourist industry is now showing very strong signs of recovery and it is expected that the numbers will be back to pre-pandemic levels, or overtake them by 2025.

The vast majority of trips to Canada are by residents of the United States. In June 2023, there were 2.6 million visits to Canada by US residents and 699,900 by overseas residents.

The travel industry employs approximately 1.55 million people in Canada. It is predicted that there will be 90,000 new jobs created in the industry during 2023, taking the total number of jobs to approximately 1.64 million.

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