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Why Americans have soured on visiting Canada

File photo of the Lewiston-Queenston border crossing in from New York to Ontario.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

Fewer Americans are visiting Canada – and it's not just a temporary lull.

Travel to Canada from the United States fell 1 per cent in November from a month earlier, with four declines in the past five months. The drop was especially acute in travel by plane, which tumbled 4.8 per cent in the month.

Americans are – by far – the most important foreign source of tourism revenue for Canada's $79-billion tourism industry. A persistently strong Canadian currency, new passport rules and headaches at the border are all factors in keeping them away – challenges that won't dissipate any time soon.

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The composition of tourists to Canada is shifting. As Americans curb travel plans to head north, travel from other countries is picking up some of the slack. Eight of the top 12 overseas markets to Canada posted increases in inbound travel in November, with the U.K. still the biggest overseas market, Statistics Canada said Monday. Its quarterly figures show receipts from American travellers in Canada fell 1.5 per cent from the previous quarter as the number of trips they made declined. But overseas travellers – who tend to spend more and stay longer but account for 17.9 per cent of all travellers to Canada – comprised 57.3 per cent of total receipts.

Marketers intent on luring more visitors from other countries may want to focus on the other side of the world. Among Canada's top overseas markets, travel to this country from China, Australia and Japan has grown from year-earlier levels. Trips from the U.K. are down 6.5 per cent from a year earlier and they've also ebbed from Germany and India.

At the same time, Canadians continue to flock south, driven in part by a strong Canadian dollar that makes trips outside the country more affordable. All told, they made 4.7 million trips to the U.S., a 0.3-per-cent increase from a month earlier. Most of these trips were to the United States, with 4.7 million, putting levels about 4 per cent higher than a year ago.

But they're also flocking overseas. Canadians took 809,000 trips to overseas countries in November – the highest figure since record keeping began in 1972.

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