Canada saw nearly 20M visitors in 2016: Destination Canada
Parliament Hill in Ottawa is seen in this undated photo. © MartinM303 / Istock.com
Published Wednesday, February 22, 2017 2:34AM EST
In a sign that interest in Canada as a travel destination is rising, the country's tourism office reports that 2016 saw the arrival of 19.98 million international travellers, narrowly missing the all-time record set in 2002.
Overall, international arrivals spiked 16 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to Destination Canada, with a record-breaking number of U.S. travellers flying to Canada: Arrivals by air rose 17 percent in 2016 compared to 2015.
The year 2016 saw a total of 19.98 million overseas visitors travel to Canada -- the highest number in 14 years, and just 0.4 per cent below the record set in 2002.
A breakdown of source markets also reveals the countries that are particularly enamored with Canada, with many setting new arrival records.
Arrivals from South Korea, for instance, saw a 30 per cent spike in 2016 compared to 2015, with 244,442 travellers.
China saw an increase of 24 per cent over 2015, sending 610,139 visitors, while arrivals from Australia rose 16 per cent, with 333,437 visitors traveling to Canada last year.
The country is hoping to build on this momentum in 2017, when Canada fetes its 150th anniversary.
To mark the landmark anniversary, the country has scheduled a host of festivals and celebrations coast to coast. One of the biggest perks for visitors is free, year-long admission into the country's national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites.
Montreal also gets double billing this year, as the city fetes its own 375th anniversary. The French-Canadian metropolis has planned 175 events across the city and expects to receive 10.7 million visitors throughout the year, including a 223 per cent increase in Chinese visits from Shanghai and Beijing.
Some of the most authoritative travel experts including National Geographic Traveler, Frommer's and Lonely Planet also named Canada or cities in Canada their picks as must-see destinations for 2017.