US arrivals into Canada hit 15-year high, but air demand is slipping

Visitors from the United States of America (USA) to Canada continue to grow, but automobiles are edging out aircraft as the preferred vehicles for travel between the two countries, according to latest data from Destination Canada.


Summary:

  • Data from Destination Canada show overnight arrivals from the US to Canada reached 1.9 million in Jun-2018, the highest level since 2002;
  • The growth was driven by a +7.9% increase in arrivals by automobile and a +12.3% rise in other modes of transportation including bus, train and cruise ships;
  • The number of air travellers from USA to Canada actually fell -7% during the first six months of 2018 despite capacity between the countries rising;
  • Across 1H 2018, US arrivals in Canada were up +1.7% year-on-year – air arrivals were down -2.9%, automobile users up +3% and other modes up +10.5%.

Data from Destination Canada show overnight arrivals from the US to Canada reached 1.9 million in Jun-2018, which was the highest since 2002. However, the growth was driven by a +7.9% increase in arrivals by automobile and a +12.3% rise in other modes of transportation including bus, train and cruise.  Arrivals by air from the US to Canada fell -7% year-on-year in Jun-2018.

For 1H2018, roughly 5.8 million US tourists visited Canada, which was an increase of +1.7% year-on-year, the highest levels for a half-year period since 2004.  But arrivals by air fell -2.9% while auto arrivals grew +3%. Arrivals by other modes of transportation jumped 10.5%.

Destination Canada noted the USD has lost some purchasing power in Canada compared to year ago – -4.2% YTD through Jun-2018 – which could have played a part in the downward trend of arrivals from the US by air. The organisation calculates air capacity between the US and Canada actually grew +4.5% year-on-year during 1H2018.

Analysis by CAPA – Centre for Aviation of OAG schedule data shows weekly seats between the US and Canada as of late Sep-2018 are up +3% year-on-year.

CHART – Weekly seat capacity between United States of America (USA) and Canada is following a general growth trendSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG

Perhaps not surprisingly, the larges share of vehicle arrivals from the US to Canada in Jun-2018 originated in border states – New York (14.7%), Washington (11%) and Michigan (10.2%).

The performance of the US market has a major impact on Canada’s international arrivals data and the +2% rise outpaced a subdued performance from Destination Canada’s long-haul markets (+1%). Unsurprisingly, when it came to air travel increased direct air arrivals from long-haul markets in 1H (+5%) stood in sharp contrast to the -16% declines in air arrivals via the US.

Destination Canada believes the overall subdued performance from long-haul markets likely resulted from a confluence of factors: rising travel costs to Canada (accommodation and airfares), disruptions arising from external environmental and economic factors, and a reported trend toward short-haul trips in some markets.