Visa Report Indicates Visitor Card Spending Up in Canada as International Tourism Continues to Support Canada's Economy

April 16, 2009 at 8:02 AM EDT
International Tourists' Spending in Canada Rose Three Percent in 2008; Trend Indicates Tourism Opportunity Around 2010 Vancouver Olympics

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr. 16, 2009-- Despite pressures on the global economy, international tourists in Canada spent US$300 million1 more with their Visa cards in 2008 than they did in 2007, according to data released today by Visa Inc. (NYSE:V).

Last year, international visitors to Canada spent more than $9 billion on their Visa-branded payment cards, contributing to Canada’s tourism economy, which represents approximately two percent of Canada’s overall GDP.2 Visa card spending by international visitors in Canada increased from US$8.7 billion in 2007, with U.S. cardholders contributing more than half of the total. Visitors from Western Europe, Asia and Australia accounted for an additional 23 percent of Visa card spending.

“Tourism to Canada is alive and well for Visa cardholders, and is an increasingly appealing and cost-effective destination for U.S. travelers, as they accounted for the majority of tourism spending on Visa cards in 20083,” said Tim Wilson, Head of Visa Canada. “As people all over the world come to use their Visa cards more frequently for everyday purchases, they are keeping this habit while on vacation. It’s another way that Visa is better money for travelers and for those who make their living in the tourism industry.”

Canada’s popularity as a tourism destination stretches to all corners of the world: 2008 saw increased Visa card spending by visitors from Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. This year-over-year growth underscores the growing stature of Canada as a tourism destination for world travelers. The survey found that international interest in visiting Canada in the future is high, with nearly three out of four survey respondents reporting they are likely to visit Canada in the future. The strongest interest comes from Mexico, the U.S., China and Japan.

The Olympic Opportunity

With Canada hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, the tourism industry is looking for an even bigger boost in revenues. According to the Visa international tourism survey, one in four respondents said they are likely to attend the Vancouver Games and the majority of those visitors also plan to visit other parts of Canada. International respondents reporting the strongest likelihood of attending the Vancouver Games originated from Brazil (57 percent), China (52 percent) and Mexico (34 percent).

“The Vancouver Games provide a strong opportunity to elevate Canada’s global visibility and attract increased tourism revenues, as we saw with the recent Beijing Games,” Wilson said.

Where Visitors Come From

Visitors from the United States continue to be the largest contributors to tourism revenues. According to the Visa tourism survey, 60 percent of U.S. respondents have visited Canada at least once, compared to 19 percent of all respondents. In 2008, U.S. visitors spent $5.47 billion on Visa cards while visiting Canada. Other top contributors to Canada inbound tourism spending in 2008 include: United Kingdom ($603 million); France ($351 million); Australia ($223 million); and Japan ($204 million).

Where are international tourists spending their money while in Canada? General retail purchases, such as clothing and food, represented 41 percent of Visa transactions by international travelers visiting Canada in 2008, totaling more than $3.7 billion, an increase of more than seven percent from the previous year. Other major segments include lodging ($1.1 billion), airlines ($628 million) and restaurants ($467 million).

Canadians’ Tourism Intentions Remain Strong

Canadian tourism is a two-way street. Canadian respondents show strong propensity for international travel over the coming two years – although they report they will take a more frugal approach to their travel plans.

The Visa international tourism survey, which polled payment cardholders in Canada and ten other nations who have traveled internationally in the past two years, found that a majority of respondents (64 percent) are equally or more willing to travel compared with one year ago. In fact, 68 percent will likely plan multiple international trips over the next 24 months. Top anticipated trip destinations among survey respondents likely to travel internationally in the next two years include: United States (65 percent); Caribbean (30 percent); United Kingdom (21 percent); Mexico (21 percent); and France (12 percent).

However, Canadian travelers are looking for ways to tighten their belt while traveling. Fifty-one percent report they will plan to travel off-peak for lower prices, 34 percent will travel to countries where the cost of visiting is less. In addition, 92 percent report their travel in the next two years will likely be basic/standard cost or economy/lower class travel.

Electronic Payment Preferred for International Travel

Survey respondents expressed preference to use credit cards while traveling abroad in the next year. Sixty-two percent of Canadian respondents prefer to use a credit card, while just 16 prefer to pay with cash and 11 percent use travelers checks. Preferred payment methods were selected largely based on three factors: convenience (76 percent), ease of accessing funds (51 percent) and security (49 percent).

About Tourism Outlook: Canada

For the Visa international tourism survey, 5,539 adult consumers aged 18+ were interviewed as part of an online panel survey hosted by GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc). Fieldwork took place between December 11, 2008 and January 8, 2009. During the research process, questions are posed to a panel of consumers and data is collected until various predefined sampling quotas are reached. The results are then analyzed and sig-tested at a 95% confidence level. For this summary, the main differences that are interesting and statistically significant have been described accordingly.

Visa cardholder spending data cited is based upon a review of tourism spending on Visa-branded payment cards by international visitors from key source countries while visiting Canada during the calendar years 2008 (January 1December 31, 2008) and 2007 (January 1December 31, 2007). These findings are based upon VisaVue® Travel data. Visa introduced the VisaVue® Travel tourism reports to the U.S. tourism industry in 2009 and offers it to a broad audience of state and convention and visitors bureau destination marketing entities.

About Visa Inc.

Visa Inc. operates the world's largest retail electronic payments network providing processing services and payment product platforms. This includes consumer credit, debit, prepaid and commercial payments, which are offered under the Visa, Visa Electron, Interlink and PLUS brands. Visa enjoys unsurpassed acceptance around the world, and Visa/PLUS is one of the world's largest global ATM networks, offering cash access in local currency in more than 170 countries. For more information, visit


1 All spending figures noted are in U.S. dollars

2Canadian Tourism Commission

3 Visa Vue Travel Data, 2007-08


Source: Visa Inc.

Visa Inc.
Paul Wilke, 415-932-2248
Emily Collins, 415-318-4106