Canadians represent a very important consumer segment for American travel advertisers. They travel over the border in droves to shop, take in the great American tourist sites, and soak in some sun down south.

This blog post is an overview of Canadian travel habits and the top U.S. travel destinations, designed to help travel-focused brands and agencies reach Canadian consumers.

Top Destinations for Canadian Travellers

According to data from StatCan, the US is by far the top country visited by Canadians, with a total of 23 million overnight visits, 233 million nights, and C$21.2 billion spent in the US in 2014. The US eclipsed all other countries: Mexico is the second most visited country with just 1.9 million overnight visits.

Interestingly, while Canadians are travelling south of the border in great numbers, Americans don’t tend to visit Canada very much. In fact, the number of southbound trips to the US is almost three-times greater than the number of trips to Canada.

It wasn’t always this way: not long ago the northward and southward flows were roughly equivalent. Nevertheless, the growing Canadian interest in travelling to the US should be seen as an opportunity for US brands and agencies looking to target Canadian consumers.

Top Destination States

In 2014, the top destination States for Canadians were Florida (4.02 million visits), New York (3.98 million visits), and Washington (3.2 million visits). It’s not surprise that many of the top destinations are Border States, but Canadians are also flocking to southern states like California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Top Destination Cities

A study revealed the top destination cities for Canadian travellers. US cities represented 7 of the top 10 destinations, with New York, Las Vegas, and Orlando taking the number 1, 2, and 5 spots (number 3 and 4 were London and Paris).

For more in-depth travel data, download our infographic.

Canadian Travel Habits

According to travel industry experts, women are the key decision makers in 90 percent of all travel decisions. In light of this finding, Best Western conducted a survey to better understand the travel habits of Canadian and American women.

The most interesting findings are as follows:

  • Roughly 50% of married Canadian and American women polled report that they travel more now that they are married.
  • Canadians are careful planners: more than half check TripAdvisor for reviews, compared to just 39% of American women. And 64% of Canadians have admitted to doing vacation research during work hours.
  • Both American and Canadian women tend to prefer spending money on activities over products or souvenirs. American women are most likely to spend on excursions and hotel upgrades, and are least likely to spend money at the spa. Canadian women have more varied tastes: while excursions take the top spot, they’re more likely than Americans to splurge on dining out.
  • Both Canadian and American women would prefer a hotel upgrade than a first-class plane ticket.
  • Canadian women are more likely to take all of their paid time off each year: 42% compared to just 31% of Americans.

Oh and by the way — in case you were wondering — American women report taking more selfies (67%) than Canadian women (42%).

Millennial Travel Habits

According to an Expedia study, Canadian and American millennials travel more frequently than any other age group, reporting 7.8 leisure trips every year. This is in stark contrast to European millennials, who take just 2.7 leisure trips on average per year. Millennials are also more likely to extend a business trip into a personal vacation: 70% of young Americans and Canadians reported doing this, compared to just 50% of those aged 31-45 and 31% of those aged 46+.

Another thing to note: millennials are more likely than other demographics to post negative reviews online, which makes them a crucial market segment to ‘get right’. Moreover, millennials tend to consider online reviews as very important in making travel decisions.

Travel Booking Habits

A poll showed that 56% of Canadians make their own travel arrangements online, 19% use travel agents, and 12% book over the phone. A large proportion of Canadians (40%) choose to travel for a maximum on one week, while 30% seek out two- or three-week getaways.

In terms of vacation activities, Canadians tend to book trips that include sightseeing (64%), staying in a hotel (51%), shopping (49%), and relaxing on the beach (45%).

What does this mean for travel advertisers?

Travel advertisers would do well to find new ways to target Canadian millennials –particularly women — in 2016. We’re seeing more and more travel advertisers leveraging digital and social media platforms to reach Canadians.

Total online ad spending in the US grew by 4.5% in 2014, in line with a 4.6% growth in gross travel bookings. We’ve seen strong display ad spending growth, but the fastest-growing ad media are social and digital video, which have nearly tripled between 2011 and 2015.

Facebook appears to the most effective social medium for generating brand awareness and leads, but advertisers are also experimenting with Twitter promoted tweets and lead generation cards, as well as Google+ and Pinterest ads.

Want more great Canadian travel insights?

Download our infographic for the complete story.

Contact us today to discuss your next travel advertising campaign.