Canada – A market of much potential

  • Ireland’s best year for Canadian visitors was 2000, when an estimated 98,000 came here.  Last year that figure was almost reached again when, by Fáilte Ireland estimates, 96,000 Canadians came to visit.
  • That is well down the list of European destinations visited in 2007 by Canadians with Germany getting 371,000, Italy 326,000, Holland 259,000 and Spain 189,000.  Given the historical ties it is not surprising that the big numbers went to France at 746,000 and the UK at 950,000.
  • Canada has long winters, so it’s not surprising that Canadians take many trips to the sun, over 1 million to Mexico, and about three quarters of a million each to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

    International travel by Canadians is at an all time high, and perhaps not surprising given that it’s one of the world’s wealthiest nations.  For the past decade the economy has been growing rapidly with very low unemployment and Government surpluses.

    Canada is one of the few developed nations that is a net exporter of energy, having vast deposits of oil and natural gas.  In fact Canada is the world’s 7th largest producer of oil at over 3 million barrels a day.  Apart from oil, Canada is the world’s largest supplier of zinc, and also produces very large quantities of gold, nickel, aluminium, lead, and of course timber.

  • Canada is big!  As the second largest country in the world, spanning six time zones and stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans, it covers almost 10 million square kilometres.  The country is made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories.

    The population is 32.8 million.  77% of Canadians live in cities and towns, most within 200km of the US border.  Some of the major cities are: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.  Ottawa is the capital city, located in the province of Ontario.

    Canada gained independence from Britain in an incremental process which began in 1867 and ended in 1982.

  • It’s an ethnically diverse nation with 34 ethnic groups having at least 100,000 members each.  The largest ethnic group is “Canadians” at 40%, followed by English at 20%, Scottish at 14%, Irish at 13% and German at 9%.  Almost 80% profess to be Christian, with Catholics making up the largest group at 44%.
  • With 2.6 million residents, Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America, and one quarter of Canada’s population is located within 100 miles of the city.  Toronto’s Pearson Airport handles almost 30 million passengers per year, that’s about 5 million more than Dublin.  Unlike Dublin Airport, Toronto is in the process of closing down its Terminal Two.  Mind you they still have 3 Terminals.  Interestingly the Airport is run by a non-profit agency called the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
  • With all these terrific numbers travelling to Europe, and given that 13% claim Irish ancestry, one would expect a greater number of Canadian visitors.  But there’s history, which may go some way to explaining this apparent under performance.  Up until last year Ireland was operating under a bilateral air agreement with Canada which was negotiated in 1957.  Under this agreement the only Canadian city open to an Irish carrier was Montreal.  For a number of years Aer Lingus operated a service which originated in Chicago via Montreal.  But this never really provided the impetus which was needed to make the market take off.  Toronto was the city which needed the lift, and while Air Canada provided a daily service in summer, supplemented by some additional flights by Air Transat and Flyglobespan, a year round service is what is needed to stimulate the true market potential.
  • However, all is now changed and a new agreement reached last year replaces the restrictive arrangements which were previously updated 50 years ago.  Now any carrier may provide service between any point in Canada and any point in Ireland.  This provides a real prospect of year round services with perhaps new gateways, in addition to the lucrative Toronto base.  As with all long haul routes however what is now needed is a return to stable and affordable oil prices.  While that may not be around the corner, it will come, and with it the prospects for substantial growth in the number of Canadian visitors.  We should at least match the numbers who visit Scotland estimated at 175,000 annually.
  • Of those Canadians who do visit, 8 out of 10 are on their first visit to Ireland.  About 75% of the visits occur between May and September.  40% hire a care, and Dublin and the South West are the most popular destinations within Ireland.
  • The length of stay is impressive with almost half staying for 9 nights or more.  83% are on their first visit, and half are in the 35-64 age category.

    Almost 80% listed exploring sites and finding out about culture as their main motivation for choosing to holiday in Ireland.

    But they do find Ireland expensive with an uncomfortable 64% expressing the view last year that their holiday represented poor or just fair value for money.

    Ireland ranked 10th in a recent ETC/Menlo study of Canadian top 10 aspirational destinations.

  • Canada itself has a massive tourist industry with tourism revenue last year reaching $71 billion, 77% of this coming from the domestic market and 23%, or $16 billion, coming from foreigners, who made 18 million overnight trips to Canada.  Almost 75% of these were predictably from the Americas with Britain next at 6%, followed by France, Germany, Japan, Australia, South Korea and China.
  • If this short introduction to Canada has whetted your appetite for more, click here to go to a much more comprehensive market profile by Tourism Ireland.
  • Next week – Sweden.
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