Sport tourism spending in Canada holds steady at $6.8 billion

OTTAWA, ON May 20, 2020 Sport tourism continued to make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy prior to the devastation of the worldwide economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the most recent data (2018) compiled on behalf of the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance (CSTA) using Statistics Canada data, Canada maintained its historical high in the value of sport tourism, with a total expenditure of $6.8 billion. It is important to note that the 2018 figures are not comparable to the analysis of previous years due to a significant change in the underlying Statistics Canada survey data. The 2019 results are expected to be available late this year.

A few points of interest:

  • $6.8 billion in total spending
  • $4.4 billion spending by domestic visitors
  • $2.5 billion spending by international visitors
  • 16.3 million total visitors: Same day, overnight, USA, international.
  • 14.5 million domestic trips (8.8 million same day; 5.6 million overnight)
  • 1.8 million international visitors (980,000 USA; 836,000 overseas)

“Canada continues to be a very attractive host country for many international events, which draws people coming to compete, support and spectate at those events,” said Rick Traer, CEO, Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance. “We have a stellar reputation for our expertise in hosting both summer and winter sports, with excellent facilities, organizational abilities, welcoming volunteers, and strong hosting program financial support at the federal and provincial levels.”

“There has also been a concerted effort to market Canada as a preferred host for international sport events, while being consistently ranked as one of the top six sport hosting nations in the world,” explained Traer. “Working with Destination Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and a number of destinations across Canada, we have continued to successfully market Canada on the world stage, at major international conferences including SportAccord and others. In 2018, Canada hosted over 40 international events that qualified for funding under the federal government’s hosting program, a major factor in attracting international visitors to Canada.”


Looking at the total volume of sport tourism visits by provinces, Ontario realized the highest visitation share (41%) followed by Quebec (18%), Alberta (13%), British Columbia (12%), with all other Provinces and Territories accounting for 16% of the visitations to these markets. The data illustrates considerable variation in the percentage of revenues coming from international visitors, ranging from a low of 7% for Saskatchewan and a high of 37% for British Columbia.

With the industry currently on pause, sport tourism will be a key element in post COVID-19 recovery efforts, beginning with inter-community and domestic events once many of the current traveling and large gatherings restrictions are lifted. It bodes well for Canadian communities to continue to reap the economic and social benefits of sport tourism in the post COVID-19 era.

The statistics used in this report were prepared by Paradigm Consulting Group using the following data sources:

  • Statistics Canada 2018 National Travel Survey (public-use microdata file) Statistics Canada
  • Statistics Canada 2018 Visitor Travel Survey
  • Statistics Canada 2018 International Transactions in Services.
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