According to Visa Inc., tourism continues to drive economic growth worldwide, particularly travel to Canada. “In 2008, international visitors to Canada spent more than $9 billion on their visa payment cards, which is up from $8.7 billion in 2007.”
Canadians are also strong contributors to the global tourism economy. According to an international tourism survey conducted by Visa, Canadians’ intent to travel internationally in the next two years has not waned based on changes in the socio-economic environment. They will be more prudent with how they travel, however, with some opting for off-peak trips and economy class travel.
Canada Inbound Tourism Spending
Visitors from the United States continue, by far, to be the largest contributors to tourism revenues in Canada. In 2008, US visitors spent $5.47 billion on Visa payment cards while visiting Canada. Additionally, Visa’s survey indicated that nearly three out of four respondents say they are likely to visit Canada in the future.
Top contributors to Canada inbound tourism include:
• United States $5.47 billion
• United Kingdom $603 million
• France $351 million
• Australia $223 million
• Japan $204 million
• China $197 million
• South Korea $177 million
• Hong Kong $152 million
• Germany $140 million
• Mexico $108 million
Canada’s popularity as a tourism destination also stretches beyond North America. 2008 saw increased spending by visitors from Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. Countries with the greatest increase in spending included Nigeria (132 percent), St. Lucia (92 percent), Russia (61 percent), United Arab Emirates (35 percent) and Brazil (32 percent).
Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games
Hosting the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in British Columbia will be a strong driver for attracting visitors and tourism revenues. The survey showed that 25 percent of respondents are likely to attend the Vancouver Games and the majority of those visitors also plan to visit other parts of Canada.
Canada Outbound Tourism Spending
Interest among Canadians for traveling internationally remains strong, with nearly two-thirds of Canadian respondents planning multiple international trips over the next 24 months.
Top international destinations Canadian survey respondents were likely to visit include United States (65 percent), Caribbean (30 percent), United Kingdom (21 percent), Mexico (21 percent), France (12 percent), Italy (11 percent), and Australia (11 percent).
However, the survey indicates that Canadians will venture closer to home, with top destinations cited including United States, Caribbean and Mexico. Fifty-one percent of Canadians said they plan to travel off-peak for lower prices and 34 percent will travel to countries where the cost of visiting is less. However, leisure and relaxation (81 percent), culture (46 percent) and shopping (40 percent) continue to be key factors impacting Canadians’ decisions on where to travel.
Planning and Top Travel Booking Methods
Internet research remains the primary source for research when planning upcoming trips, followed by recommendations from friends and family. Though travelers are increasingly researching travel on their own and becoming self-reliant in travel booking, a significant number of those traveling abroad in the next year still said they will likely rely on traditional travel agents (43 percent), followed by online travel agencies (41 percent) and hotel and airline websites (40 percent).
While roughly half of Canadian respondents stated that the economy had little impact on travel plans, 24 percent of respondents overall say they are less willing to travel abroad compared to 12 months ago. In another indication of Canadians becoming more budget conscious this year, survey respondents indicated they will prefer basic or standard cost class (48 percent) or economy/lower class (44 percent) travel.
International Travelers Prefer Electronic Payment
According to the survey, 62 percent of Canadians report they prefer to use a credit card while traveling, with the next most popular form of payment being cash (16 percent). Preferred payment methods were selected largely based on three factors: convenience (76 percent), ease of access to funds (51 percent) and security (49 percent) that these forms of payment offer.
Canadians showed a stronger preference for using payment cards when traveling abroad compared to all survey respondents across the 11 countries surveyed. Overall, 55 percent of international respondents reported they prefer to use a credit card while traveling. Consistent with Canadians’ preference for payment cards, overall respondents are reaching for plastic based on convenience (72 percent), security (58 percent) and ease of access to funds (45 percent).
According to Visa, the preference for paying with plastic while overseas underscores the continued migration of payments worldwide. “For businesses serving tourists around the world, Visa card acceptance supports growth by providing access to 1.6 billion Visa cards from around the world.”