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Canada is a hit with Chinese tourists, as Americans stay home

Air Canada aircraft arrive and depart from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia February 10, 2011. Strong business class demand helped Air Canada return to a quarterly operating profit and lay out optimistic forecasts on Thursday, but the results failed to live up to expectations set by its main domestic rival.

Reuters

Travellers from China are saving Canada's bacon.

The number of Chinese travellers to Canada hit record in February of 29,400 trips, Statistics Canada reported Thursday. While visits from Americans continue to dwindle, China is taking up some of the slack, with the number of Chinese trips to Canada doubling between 2006 and 2012.

It's fortunate timing. Trips from the United States – Canada's most important market – have ebbed, in part because the strong Canadian dollar has made visits more expensive. In February, they fell to almost 1.7 million visits, the lowest level in nearly two years. Back in 2007, by comparison, visits from Americans regularly surpassed 2 million a month.

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All told, fewer visits from the United States outweighed more trips from overseas countries, resulting in a 1.5-per-cent decline in total travel to Canada in the month.

China wasn't the only country giving Canada a boost in February – visits from Japan, India and South Korea also grew.

The United Kingdom is still the top overseas market to Canada, Statscan noted. However, "this is the second-lowest number of travellers since May, 2003," it said.

Meanwhile, Canadians continue to flock across the border, and to other countries. Same-day car trips to the United States have risen for four months in a row, which may reflect still-active cross-border shopping.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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