Canada attracted a record-breaking number of overseas tourists in 2018, with visitors from China, France and Mexico, new flight routes and visa changes pushing the number of international arrivals past the 21 million mark for the first time.

Last year marked the fifth consecutive year of growth for international tourist arrivals to Canada with 21.13 million overseas visitors, making 2018 the best year for Canadian tourism, said Destination Canada.

Key international markets also set new arrivals records, with tourists from China exceeding the 700,000 mark (737,379) for the first time, marking a six per cent growth compared to 2017.

Likewise, arrivals from France grew five per cent over 2017 with 604,166 arrivals, also pushing past the 600,000 mark for the first time, while arrivals from Mexico broke the 400,000 threshold for the first time last year as well.

Destination Canada attributes the record-setting performance to the opening of new visa applications centers in China, Canada's third largest source market; new flight routes; increased service to Canadian airports and flight capacity; and visa changes for priority markets.

The U.K. remains the largest overseas market for tourists to Canada, with 814,000 visitors crossing the Atlantic in 2018. They represent 12 per cent of all overseas tourists to Canada.

Meanwhile, the number of Canadians who travelled overseas declined in 2018 for the first time in 15 years, down two per cent to 12 million.