Canada-U.S. Travel: Signs Of Recovery, No Signs Of Trump Effect

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

(l to r) Sue Webb, President, Discover America Canada, Jennifer Hendry, Canadian Tourism Research Institute, Mark Iker, Advertising Sales Manager, The Globe and Mail.

That’s the analysis from Jennifer Hendry, Senior Research Associate for the Canadian Tourism Research Institute. Hendry was speaking to a meeting of the Discover America Canada Committee, the organization dedicated to promoting travel and tourism from Canada to the United States.

Travel in that direction took a sharp hit in 2015, when the Loonie plunged. Total Canadian traffic to the U.S. dropped over 12% in 2015, and another 7% last year. Meanwhile, overseas travel from Canada rose 6% last year.

For this summer, the CTRI is predicting 0.7% growth in U.S. travel, while overseas travel is predicted to rise by 3.6%.

Many in the Canadian outbound industry – and American states dependent on Canadian tourism -- worried that the election of Donald Trump would have a major impact on Canucks heading south. Travel intention surveys appeared to confirm that, with half of surveyed Canadians and 37% of ‘likely visitors’ to the U.S. indicating that the Trump presidency would negatively impact their travel plans.

So far, the numbers aren’t bearing that out. “We’re not seeing it yet,” said Hendry. “It remains to be seen if that will change.”

In terms of air travel, direct capacity from Canada to the U.S. is up 5% this summer, from 8.9 million to 9.3 million seats. And with the dollar down, fewer Canadians are crossing the border to fly, Hendry reports.

The top five states Canadians listed among their summer travel intentions are California, Florida, New York, Nevada and Maine. New to the ‘Top 10’ list this year are New Jersey and Tennessee, placing 9th and 10th respectively.

Hendry says that while economic growth is sluggish compared to pre-recession numbers and Canadians are carrying record-high debt, there are other factors that offer encouragement to the travel and tourism industry.

“People are still consuming experiences, more so than buying more things. Travel is one of those experiences. While growth rates will not be as strong as they have been in the past decade, we still expect growth. Travel is resilient, especially air travel.”

There’s good news ahead for U.S. destinations targeting Canadians. As the massive cohort of Baby Boomers gets older, they tend to travel closer to home.

“Canadians are much more likely to travel domestically or to the U.S. as they age,” Hendry told the audience at The Globe and Mail’s new event centre, located on the 16th floor of 351 King St. E. in Toronto, with sweeping views of the city’s skyline.

The meeting of the Discover America Canada Committee also featured news that the group has launched an enhanced website at

Sana Keller, a past-president of the Committee and a managing partner at Pulse Travel Marketing, also delivered a warm tribute to Ann Fairley, a former board member and Vice President of the Ontario Motor Coach Association, who passed away from colon cancer in May at far too young an age.

“She never, ever complained,” said Keller. “She was an inspiration.”

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years.

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