Canadian arrivals into Britain are poised to set an all-time record this year. And with an expected 944,000 visitors from this country forecast to find their way to Old Blighty – significantly more than not only 2019 (874k), but also the previous high-water mark in 2017 (911k) – VisitBritain officials are eyeing the magic million mark in 2024.
“I’m confident in our projections and I’ve said, ‘we can smash this (record),’” VisitBritain Chairman Nick de Bois told Travel Industry Today at Destination Britain North America event in San Francisco on the weekend.
He noted that Canadian visitors are also expected to break the billion-pound spending mark this year, itself a 27% increase over the already record £934 million mark in 2022.
In addition to global trends, such as pent-up demand and revenge travel, de Bois says the disposition of Canadians is a particular key to the growth and visitor love of Great Britain.
“Canadian tourists,” he says, “enjoy the diversity of the regions, the diversity across England, going to different places across the country.”
Moreover, he notes, “A lot of Canadians have huge personal connections, family connections, with the United Kingdom. But it’s quite clear in their desire to travel that the offer, which people understand now elsewhere right now, but Canadians always understood, is, whether it is our heritage, or our buildings, or our culture, it is very strong in the regions… And Canadians get that, and that’s why I’m really encouraged.
“The appetite now for going out and enjoying things that are unusual and what they want to see is matched with the regions – the coastlines, for example,” he says, noting that any point in the UK, one is no further than 122 km from the coast.
Or food, where there is now great diversity in a country not historically renowned for its culinary chops, as well as boasting dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants, and many of them outside London.
According to VisitBritain, other key Canadian statistics include:
• 9th largest market for visits in 2022; 7th for value.
• Staying longer – average 11 nights in 2022 vs all-market average of eight.
• Spending more per visit: £1,042, up 24% on 2019 (all market average spend is £848).
• Great seasonal spread, i.e. visit UK year-round.
• Scheduled airline seat capacity recovered to 90% in Sept 2023 vs. Sept 2019.
• Airline departures expected to fully recover by November 2023.
Where Canadians go
• London – 36%
• Scotland – 16%
• Southeast – 12%
• Southwest – 7%
• Yorkshire – 5%
• West Midlands – 4%
• Wales – 2%
By the numbers
• 76% of Canadians are repeat visitors
• 20% of visitors are aged 25-34, the top demographic (marginally ahead of 55-64 at 18%)
• 41% travel in summer; 30% April-June; 22% Oct.-Dec.
• 47% travel for VFR; 37% for holiday; 8% for business
• 6 Canadian gateways service 5 UK destinations
• Almost half (47%) of travellers originate in Ontario (BC is 2nd at 20%)
• 27% of visiting Canadians have accessibility requirements; 10% are LGBTQIA
• 24% travel only to Britain; 69% continue to Europe
Top 5 activities to experience
• Scenery and coast
• Local food and beverages
• Tourist attractions and iconic places
• History and heritage
• City life
Top drivers of choice
• Good value for money
• Easy to get around
• Beautiful coast and countryside
• Easy to roam and see different places
With Canadians aligning with VisitBritain’s mandates – including strong commitments towards both sustainable and accessible travel – de Bois, believes visitations from this country will only continue to grow in the coming years.
“Whilst we are on many people’s wish lists to come in the next three to five years, I think in many ways the scene has changed a little bit and we’re now seeing people responding to the need, the wish, to come now…
“I think we should always be very, very cautious about the future, because in tourism things can change very quickly, so while I’m confident in the way forward, I think the growth is there and will continue…”
So, will Canada hit million visitors to Britain in 2024 or beyond?
“Yes!” says de Bois emphatically, adding, “I won’t be cautious about that! Because the organization has the ambition. And I also think Canada has the appetite.”
First published at Travel Industry Today