Rolling out the Welcome Mat to U.S. Tourists: A $7 Billion Opportunity

November 4, 2015         By: Erika Napoletano

Did you know that U.S. visitors to Canada in 2014 spent more than $7 billion in Canada, and that figure is only expected to rise as the U.S. dollar strengthens against the Loonie and Canada becomes an even more appealing destination for millions of U.S. tourists.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re getting a share of this valuable tourist spend.

What U.S. Tourism Means to Canadian Businesses

According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, Canada is the second-most popular travel destination for U.S.-based tourists. The International Trade Administration reports 12 million visits from the U.S. to Canada during 2014 alone. Much of this is due to the short trip from the U.S. to many Canadian destinations, making for an easy getaway for budget- and time-conscious travelers.

With recent economic improvements in the United States, year-to-date tourism figures are showing marked improvement as well. The Canadian Tourism Commission reports more than 4.9 million visits to Canada from U.S. visitors during the first half of 2015, an 8.4 percent increase over the same period last year.

What U.S. Tourists Are Doing in Canada

According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, the three most popular types of trips for U.S. tourists to Canada are touring vacations (16 percent), friends and family visits (14 percent), and city vacations (14 percent). More specifically, you’ll most likely catch them:

  • Taking guided city tours or tours beyond the city
  • Wildlife/marine life viewing and fishing
  • Hiking and cycling/biking
  • On a day cruise
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving

Beyond activities, there are also travelers’ day-to-day expenses to consider. Travelers age 55+ are highly likely to be dining out during their travel experiences, including seeking Canada’s highly regarded dining destinations. Younger travelers (35 and under) are more likely to rent cars, visit spas, attend music/arts festivals, or explore the country by train.

U.S. tourists tend to stay in mid-priced hotels (roughly 40 percent of travelers). Many others stay with friends and family (19 percent) which is likely to mean more restaurant, grocery, excursion, and many other categories of purchases during their stay.

Your Chance to Lay Out the $7 Billion Welcome Mat

With visitors from the U.S. comprising the largest tourism demographic in Canada, what do you need to do as a merchant to be ready for them?

With the convenience, security and built-in exchange rates of debit and credit cards, we’re fast becoming a world that travels with less cash. Make sure your business is ready to accommodate the ways your international visitors choose to pay by accepting their card of choice. When you accept cards that run on the Discover Global Network, the third-largest payment network in the world, you’re opening your doors to tens of millions of cardholders from around the world, including Discover card from the U.S., Diners Club International, and Alliance partners from around the world. These cardholders seek out merchants who accept their cards. In fact two-thirds look for Discover Global Network signage before selecting a merchant when they are traveling (TNS Global Merchant Card Acceptance, 2014). Accepting cards running on the Discover Global Network will ensure your business can gain sales from these affluent travelers.

Make sure you show you accept by displaying Discover Global Network signage. You can order free signage at If you do not offer Discover Global Network Acceptance or you are unsure, contact your Payment Processor to let them know you want to take advantage of the valuable tourist spend from their cardholders.

With U.S. tourism to Canada set to rise, why not make sure our neighbors to the south can stay and play (and pay) with as little effort as possible?