Canadian travel abroad hits 40-year high

Statistics Canada says Canadians took nearly 2.8 million overnight trips abroad in June — the highest monthly figure in four decades.

Strong dollar and new cross-border shopping rules spur trips

Canadians took more overnight trips abroad in June than they did at any point since record keeping began in 1972. (Amy Sancetta/Associated Press)

Canadians made a record 1.9 million overnight trips to the U.S. in June as new rules that increased duty-free exemptions for cross-border shopping came into effect.

Overnight trips to the U.S. rose 7.5 per cent in June compared to May to the highest level since 1972, when the agency began keeping records on such trips.

Most overnight travel was by car, with Canadians taking more than 1.2 million trips — a 10 per cent increase month over month.

As of June 1, cross-border shoppers on an overnight trip are allowed to declare $200 worth of purchased goods. Before they were only allowed $50.

For people on a jaunt of between two and seven days, the limit has doubled to $800 from $400 while the limit for visits of more than a week increased to $800 from $750.

The Retail Council of Canada has said increasing duty exemptions on goods bought in the U.S. would negatively impact Canadian retailers, especially those in border communities, by luring more shoppers stateside.

While StatsCan didn't specifically attribute the spike in visits to the new duty-free rules, the agency did note the two events coincided.

The spike in overnight trips to the U.S. will likely prove alarming for those struggling to compete with American retailers.

The total number of overnight trips — including the U.S. and overseas destinations — made by Canadians in June also hit its highest point in nearly four decades of record keeping. Statistics Canada says Canadians took nearly 2.8 million overnight trips abroad in June, up 5.7 per cent compared to May.

Statistics Canada says Canadians took 807,000 trips to overseas countries in June, an increase of 1.4 per cent from May and the first time that monthly travel to overseas countries topped the 800,000 mark.

Travel to Canada also rose 0.5 per cent to around 2.1 million trips in June.

Americans took 651,000 same-day car trips to Canada in June, down 1.7 per cent from May, while the number of travellers from other countries rose 0.8 per cent in June to 381,000 trips.

Some 26,000 residents of China visited Canada in June — a 5.5 per cent increase from the month before and the highest monthly figure on record — while the number Italian travellers also grew by 5.5 per cent.

But travel to Canada from India fell 5.4 per cent.

Local chambers of commerce across the country and the Retail Council have asked Ottawa to make changes that would help them combat cross-border shopping.

They want the federal government to eliminate the tariffs charged on imported finished goods which, they say, add to the costs that Canadian retailers must deal with when they set consumer prices.