Despite persistently negative media coverage of US political affairs (including volatile NAFTA negotiations), Canadian leisure travel to the US increased for the first time in four years in 2017—up 4.5 per cent over 2016—indicating that vendors of travel insurance may continue to enjoy robust market growth south of the border.
According to a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC), when asked about those factors that influenced their travel decisions, the “vast majority” of (Canadian) outbound travellers reported that disease/outbreaks (64.9 per cent), political uncertainty (60.2 per cent), terrorism/security concerns (59.4 per cent), and extreme weather events (54.6 per cent) had no impact on their trip planning. On the other hand, the ups and downs of the loonie vis-à-vis the US dollar did have some effect on travel decisions.
Fortunately, the relative strength of the loonie throughout much of 2017 did have a salutary effect on travel to the US; though the average daily hotel room rate of USD $127 was up 2.1 per cent over 2016, the stronger loonie mitigated that increase so that the average rate of CAD $164 in 2017 was the same as the previous year.
Where were the US travel hot spots?
Overall, Florida retained its long-held lead by attracting an estimated 1.97 million air arrivals from Canada in 2017, up 2.4 per cent over 2016. (CBoC projects that Canadians made a total of 3.5 million visits to Florida by all modes of travel in 2017.)
Los Angeles attracted 1.2 million Canadian air arrivals in 2017; Las Vegas 898,000; Orlando 619,000; and Fort Lauderdale 571,000.
Though leisure travel to the US accounted for 60.7 per cent of all outbound Canadian travel in 2017, its share of all out-of-country travel was down from its peak of 69.7 per cent in 2013.
Looking beyond the US
But for travel trade professionals, that diminishing share is more than made up by the rise of Canadian travel to non-US destinations overall—Europe, Asia, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, Australia and New Zealand—which in 2017 grew at a rate of 6.9 per cent, higher even than the increased travel to the US.
Mexico itself recorded almost two million visits from Canadians in 2017—a 7.6 per cent increase over 2016—and China welcomed an estimated 764,000 Canadian visitors (22.9 per cent of Asia’s travel market).
The not-so-hot spots
The biggest reversals in Canadian outbound travel affected parts of the Caribbean, hard hit by a spate of hurricanes in September and October of 2017—particularly Cuba (down 5.9 per cent), Puerto Rico (down 26.8 per cent), St. Maarten (down 14.8 per cent), Dominica (down 20.9 per cent), and Anguilla (down 18.5 per cent).
Nonetheless, Canadians still made 5.4 per cent more visits to the Caribbean region overall in 2017 than 2016. And with rebuilding and renovation efforts reported to be well advanced in the island nations hit by last years’ storms, travel projections for the remainder of 2018 and the winter season of 2019 remain robust.
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