The State of Canada’s Tourism Industry
Tourism means business in Canada. With $90 billion in total economic activity and 1.7 million jobs related to the sector, tourism is one of the few truly national industries that generates business in every region, province, territory, town and community.
The travel and tourism sector provides a vital stimulus to Canada’s commercial growth through the visitor economy. This is especially true because of the amount of economic activity which the sector draws into the country.
Globally, tourism is booming. International travel between countries represents the fourth largest export sector in the global economy, with 1.2 billion international travellers spending $1.3 trillion outside their own borders in 2015.
Over the past couple of years, the Canadian travel and tourism industry has proven itself to be a strong and consistent engine of economic growth and job creation, during a time when other sectors are struggling due to global commodity prices and an unsteady dollar. This puts the industry in a favourable position that will help Canada reach its full potential in the years to come.
The Need For Sustainable Growth
While Canada’s numbers are solid, our market share of the tourism industry is not keeping pace with other countries. The UNWTO ranks Canada as 17th in overall visitation globally when we had been as high as 8th in 2000. Canada is also the only country to fall out of the top ten since 2000.
The recent much-needed and long overdue increase in international visitation, favourable currency exchange and federal support of Connecting America are all positive signs. Yet a single year’s result does not make a sustainable pattern. Further, the 2015 performance reinforces two systemic weaknesses of Canadian tourism: the impact of currency fluctuation and a reliance on domestic travel.
Canada’s market share of international tourism will continue to weaken, and the travel deficit continue to grow, without addressing key marketing, aviation cost, product investment, visa processing and labour issues as identified by TIAC. The 2015 results to date—strong international arrivals buoyed by favourable exchange rates—should be seen as a platform for continued improvement not a signal that the industry is performing at ideal levels.