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Visits to Canada soar in May

Non-resident trips to Canada by air soared 52.5 per cent, compared with May 2022
Tourists mill about on a busy Victoria street

Visits to Canada continue to surge on a year-over-year basis but remain below pre-pandemic levels, according to data for May that Statistics Canada released today.

The return of travellers is important for the Canadian economy, and the trend has been for overall spending by visitors to Canada to also be significantly higher than it was in 2022. Arrivals have been soaring on a year-over-year basis because in October 2022, the Canadian government eliminated COVID-19-related travel restrictions, thereby making travel more hassle-free.

The nation's number cruncher today said that it found that last month Canadian airports with electronic sensors welcomed 774,000 non-residents, which was 52.5 per cent more than the number of non-residents who visited Canada through those airports in May 2022. Of those non-residents, approximately 370,000 were American, according to Statistics Canada.

The number of returning Canadians also surged – to approximately 1.5 million, or 34 per cent more than in the same month in 2022. 

Meanwhile, on land borders with electronic sensors, U.S.-resident trips to Canada totalled approximately one million in May 2023 – a 64.1 per cent year-over-year increase. Those border crossings detected that the number of trips from returning Canadians in May reached 1.9 million, or 35.7 per cent more than in May 2022. 

While the data show a significant bump in visits in May, compared with May 2022, the visits continue to be significantly below what they were in May 2019. 

When Statistics Canada compared visitor arrivals in Canadian airports that in 2019 had electronic sensors with arrivals in those same airports today, it found that in May the airports' traffic was about 89.4 per cent of what it was in May 2019.

For land borders, Statistics Canada found that in May arrivals were about 83.4 per cent of what they were in May 2019. The trend had been for monthly arrivals to be closer to what they were pre-pandemic, but that trend reversed in May. In April, those border crossings saw arrivals that were 87.1 per cent of what they were in April 2019. 

Canadians have also increased their travel to the U.S.

In May, border crossings with electronic sensors detected approximately 1.9 million Canadians returning from U.S. trips. That was up 35.7 per cent from the approximately 1.4 million trips from returning Canadians in May 2022, but down 17.4 per cent from the 2.3 million such trips in May 2019.

In May 2022, travellers were mandated to follow a raft of travel restrictions that did not end until October.

On Oct. 1, the government stopped requiring visitors to show proof of being vaccinated. It also stopped requiring visitors to use the country's ArriveCan app. Passengers on planes and trains on Oct. 1 stopped needing to wear masks, while cruise passengers on that date stopped having to provide pre-boarding tests that proved that they were negative for COVID-19.

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