Loonie Weighed Heavily on Travel to Caribbean in 2016

If you need assurance that the weak loonie is hurting Canadian leisure travel, consider the recent statistics tracking arrivals in the Caribbean and Mexico (from the Conference Board of Canada).

  • Though Canadians made 4.27 million trips to that region in the first 11 months of 2016 (admittedly, not bad for a population of only 33 million) it was 1.4 percent fewer than the same period (January to November 2015), and the reductions were distributed pretty well across the board.
  • Of 20 countries in the region, only six saw positive arrivals from Canada: Anguilla, 3.7 percent (just over 3,000); St. Vincent, 1.6 percent (just over 6,200); Barbados, 1.1 percent (almost 67,000); Costa Rica, 4.6 percent (just under 160,000); Dominican Republic, 2.4 percent (just under 682,000); and Mexico, 0.8 percent (1.54 million).
  • All 14 other countries saw reductions, among them Cuba (-3.2 percent); Bahamas (-11.6 percent), Aruba (-6.2 percent); Jamaica (-5.9 percent); St. Lucia (-4.6 percent); Panama (-29 percent).

Arrivals to Mexico (still Canada’s favored warm weather destination—next to Florida) also showed sharp drops to previously favored locations—Manzanillo, Guadalajara, Acapulco, and even to Cancun and Zihuatanejo.  \Had it not been for sharp increases of 30.3 percent to Mexico City and 29.5 percent to Huatulco, Mexico’s figures overall would also have been in the red.

Canada’s relationship with Cuba, now that American restrictions on travel have been eased, is particularly interesting—the big question being, will Americans dethrone Canadians as Cuba’s largest contingent of visitors?

Despite the easing of US Cuban relations, Americans have a long way to go to catch up to Canada’s hold on the Cuban market. According to Cuba’s National Office for Statistics and Information (ONEI), 2.14 million visitors arrived in Cuba between January and June 2016). Up 11.8 percent over the first six months of 2015

Full 2016 year stats are not yet.


Canadians still dominate Cuban travel

Canadians made over 770,000 trips to Cuba in that 6 month period (one third of the total), in second place was the Cuban community living abroad (187,073), followed by US Citizens (136,913 –up 80 percent over the comparable period in the previous year).  Following next were visitors from Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Mexico, Argentina and Spain.

The dip in Canadian visits to Cuba in the first half of 2016 is the first reversal in several years.

But as it is generally tied to the weak Canadian dollar, a reversal in the strength of the loonie could quickly enough prevent such weakening from becoming a trend. CBoC  estimates the loonie averaged $0.76 US during the January to June 2016 period; a -4.1 per cent drop compared to the previous year.

And according to the Conference Board, when Canadian consumers were asked in January 2017 about their confidence in both the economy and their own ability to spend money, they showed a hefty 21.6 point increase over last year.  And where was that confidence strongest? Quebec, followed by Ontario and BC.

If that holds true, and the loonie refuses to retreat, Canadians will remain the “team to beat” for some time to come in the hearts and tourism books of Cuba.


Are you ready for some fun in the sun? Slap some insurance on top of that sunscreen.


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