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canada competes

Investment in attractions, such as Casa Loma in Toronto, is one necessary step, says the tourism association.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Canada's international travel deficit with the world fell by $82-million to $4.6-billion in the third quarter, Statistics Canada says, as Canadians spent less in the United States and overseas visitors spent more in Canada.

Still, the country is losing market share of the rapidly growing global tourism sector, says the president and chief executive officer of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), which represents members of the country's air and passenger rail services, airport authorities, local and provincial destination authorities, hotels, attractions and tour operators.

"The travel deficit has widened dramatically since 2002," TIAC chief executive officer David Goldstein says. "We used to be the seventh in the world in 2007 when it came to international arrivals. We are now the 18th. We used to have 20 million international visitors in 2002 and now have 16 million."

Put another way, global receipts from travel are up about 4 per cent, he says, while Canada's receipts from international travel are growing at about 2 per cent.

"The fact that we are now contributing almost a third to Canada's trade deficit is somewhat shocking," he says.

The country is not investing enough in marketing itself abroad, while our competitors are, he says. "Once we absorb the federal tourism commission cuts, Australia will be spending 3-to-1 of our marketing dollars."

As well, air travel and other costs are too high, and there have been cuts to investment in attractions, such as parks and museums, that attract visitors, he adds.

The silver lining is higher spending by international travellers, Mr. Goldstein says.

Statscan says Canadians spent just under $9-billion outside the country in the third quarter, down 0.5 per cent from the second quarter, while receipts from foreign travellers in Canada increased 0.9 per cent to $4.3-billion.

The travel deficit with the United States decreased by $35-million to $3.8-billion in the quarter, mainly because Canadian spending there slipped by 1.1 per cent to just under $5.6-billion.

Meanwhile, spending by U.S. travellers in Canada slipped 1.5 per cent to $1.8-billion.

The travel deficit with overseas countries decreased by $47-million to $851-million in the third quarter.

Spending by overseas visitors to Canada rose 2.7 per cent to hit a record $2.5-billion, even though the number of visits fell 1.3 per cent to 1.1 million trips.

Spending by Canadian travellers overseas countries rose 0.5 per cent to $3.4 billion, even though the number of trips slipped 0.2 per cent to 2.4 million.

With a report from Christina Varga in Toronto

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