Canadian dollar, gas prices will help boost travel this year: Conference Board

Canada will see a boost in travel numbers this summer, with domestic and international figures both projected to rise, the Conference Board of Canada said in a new report out Tuesday.
Low gasoline prices and a weak exchange rate will help boost travel in Canada this year, the Conference Board of Canada says. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Canada will see a boost in travel numbers this summer, with domestic and international figures both projected to rise, the Conference Board of Canada said in a new report out Tuesday.

The research group is forecasting that domestic visits will rise by by 2.1 per cent, while overnight visits to Canada from the U.S. and overseas are expected to increase by 5.1 and 5.2 per cent this year, respectively.

"A favourable exchange rate coupled with low gas prices will make Canada an attractive destination for both Canadian and international travellers in 2016," Greg Hermus, associate director for the Conference Board of Canada's Canadian Tourism Research Institute, said in a release.

On the domestic travel front, the Conference Board said more Canadians are projected to stay closer to home for their vacation this year as out-of-country travel gets more expensive. 

"Unfortunately, some of these effects are offset by economic uncertainty and soft employment growth, as households are expected to exercise caution over the near term when it comes to spending," the group said.

Meanwhile, growth in visits to Canada from the United States is expected to slow this year, sliding from an estimated increase of 7.7 per cent last year to just slightly above five per cent this year.

Air travel from the U.S. to Canada is expected to be the main driver in that growth as capacity increases coupled with expected lower fares due to reduced fuel prices, and increased competition, boost the segment.

Among other international sources of travel to Canada, India and China will be the prime growth, the Conference Board said. Travel from India is forecast to rise by 13.2 per cent, while trips from China  are seen rising by 10.4 per cent.

Visits to Canada from Europe are expected to rise by about three per cent this year.

Vancouver expected to lead

Among the nine Canadian cities covered in the Conference Board's outlook, tourism growth is projected to range from a low of 0.8 in Edmonton to a high of 4.1 per cent in Vancouver.

The report says Vancouver should receive a boost from the opening of the Trump International Hotel and from hosting the World Rugby Sevens Tournament.

Edmonton will face a "difficult" year, as local and provincial economies dent corporate profitability and consumer confidence.

Calgary, which has been hit economically by low commodity prices, should benefit from Albertans travelling closer to home, the Conference Board said, and get a lift from hosting the Juno Awards and the opening of the National Music Centre.

Toronto is expected to get a 3.3 per cent bump in overnight visits this year thanks to the city hosting the NBA All-Star Game, the Grey Cup, and the World Cup of Hockey.

Montreal is forecast to see a 3.4 rise in visits. "New attractions and greater hotel inventory should help stimulate pleasure travel while large conventions, such as the World Social Forum and the International Economic Forum of the Americas, should boost business travel," the Conference Board said.