Canada’s Run to the Sun Slows—For Now

I’ve often said that Canadians, a tough breed, would rather visit the infernal gates of Hades in January than be left behind to shovel snow drifts from their driveways.

But given last year’s mild winter, coupled with a low-flying loonie, Canadians but the brakes on their run to the sun—albeit not enough to consider making a habit of it.

According to several official data sources (including the Conference Board of Canada, Statistics Canada and government agencies of destination countries), overnight stays by Canadians for the U.S. as a whole dropped by 18% in January and February 2016 compared to the same time period in 2015.

And although Canadian visits to Florida by air were up by 3% in the first two months of 2016, they were down by 17% by all other modes of travel.

During the same time period, Canadian visits to Hawaii were down by 16%, to Arizona (by air) 8%, and to Las Vegas (by air) 7%. Note that these percentages have been rounded.

And then there’s the Caribbean and Mexico, where arrivals in January and February 2016 were below last year’s levels in 17 of 20 countries: down 1% in Cuba (on the heels of a 1% drop in 2015 over the previous year); 11% in Jamaica; 15% in St. Lucia; 26% in Panama; 7% in Barbados; 19% in Bermuda (not in the Caribbean, but nonetheless tallied in by statisticians), and the Bahamas down 3% (also not in the Caribbean).The sharpest longer term loss in the Caribbean appears to be in Jamaica, which saw only 85,533 arrivals from Canada in January and February 2016, compared to 100,003 in the recent peak year 2013.

Only in the Dominican Republic and Mexico did the number of Canadian visits rise, by 5% and 1.5%, respectively. The increase in traffic to the DR is generally attributable to cheaper prices. But even at current numbers—225,400 arrivals in January and February 2016—Canadian visits to the DR have not quite reached the earlier peak levels of 2012.

And while Mexico saw a marginal 1% increase overall, it saw substantial losses in Cancun (4%), Manzanillo (19%), Guadalajara (8%), and Acapulco (6%).

Curacao was the third Caribbean country that saw an increase in Canadian visits (24%), which was likely attributable to a new air service by Air Transat. But at such low numbers for Curacao (5,300 in 2015 to 6,600 in 2016), it doesn’t take many individual visits to significantly boost percentages.

Will Canada’s run-to-the-sun slowdown be a lasting trend? Not likely. Canadian consumer-spending levels are at reasonable levels, and the loonie may be seeing something of a rebound. And, if next year’s winter season is as “normal” as I remember it in the old days as a kid in Montreal, Canadians will be flocking south in droves.


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