Report: COVID’s Impact on Canadian Tourism Worse Than 9/11 & SARS Combined
Mark Stachiew, Open Jaw

“The current situation facing the tourism sector is the worst ever seen, more dire than the impact experienced after 9/11, SARS and the 2008 economic crisis combined,” said Destination Canada as it revealed research Monday on the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s visitor economy.

The  government agency responsible for marketing Canada as a tourism destination believes Canadians play a critical role in reviving the country’s visitor economy – which might take years to recover. The problem is, search data reveals that many Canadians are showing a high interest in travelling internationally this year, if it is safe to do so. 

“We understand that everyone is eager for some much-needed vacation time and we are calling on Canadians to plan their future travel within Canada,” says Marsha Walden, President and Chief Executive Officer for Destination Canada. 

The Destination Canada research revealed that the visitor economy saw unprecedented losses in 2020 and tourism continues to be by far the most threatened sector in the Canadian economy due to its service nature and current reliance on foreign tourists. 

Destination Canada said that if Canadians shift two-thirds of their planned spend on international leisure travel towards domestic tourism, it will make up for the estimated $19 billion shortfall currently facing the country’s visitor economy, help sustain 150,000 jobs and accelerate recovery by one year.

With international options restricted or unknown for the coming summer, many in Canada’s travel trade are shifting their attention on selling domestic products this year.

For example, Sunwing launched its domestic summer program last week with flights starting in MAY that will run weekly until the beginning of SEP. 


“With lots of Canadians staying closer to home this spring and summer, we wanted to make it easier for them to safely reconnect with family and friends across the country,” said Andrew Dawson, President of Tour Operations. 


Other examples include Operators like Globus and Cosmos which added six Canadian tour itineraries this summer.


“This summer, Canadians interested in a ‘staycation,’ can dive into European culture, close to home,” said Stéphanie Bishop, managing director for the Globus family of brands.

One in every 10 Canadian jobs is tied to tourism and the current struggle faced by the visitor economy creates a ripple effect across the entire job market, impacting the quality of life and well-being of all Canadians, said the agency. Women, immigrants and youth, who make up the engine of the visitor economy, have been hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19 due to reduced operations, business closures and job loss. 

“Canada’s visitor economy isn’t just a key pillar of our country’s economy, it’s critical to our collective quality of life,” added Destination Canada’s Walden. “Canadians have the power to change this by spending their travel budget in Canada.”

“We are all fortunate to live in this incredibly beautiful and diverse country with breathtaking experiences from coast to coast to coast—now is the time to plan on exploring our backyards when safe to do so,” she said. 

The full report, entitled Revisiting Tourism: Canada’s Visitor Economy One Year into the Global Pandemic, is available online.

Mark Stachiew

Mark Stachiew Editor

Mark Stachiew is a Montreal-based travel journalist who’s been exploring and writing about the world for more than 30 years. When he’s not travelling somewhere or grappling with words on a page, he curates his own collection of travel gear.

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