The Impact of Canadian Civic Holidays on US Tourism

Annie Charles

As we explore the vast array of cultural diversity that encompasses North America, one striking aspect is the distinct way we commemorate civic holidays. In Canada, these holidays go beyond being mere breaks from work; they serve as a reflection of the nation's rich history, diverse culture, and shared values.

From Victoria Day, which signals the arrival of summer, to Canada Day, which commemorates the country's confederation, and the Civic Holiday in August, these special occasions are deeply woven into the fabric of Canadian society.

In this article, we aim to delve into an intriguing aspect of these celebrations—their impact on tourism in the United States. While it is widely known that holidays often spark travel, it is worth examining the influence of Canadian civic holidays on US tourism, particularly in border towns. This exploration is not only relevant to those in the tourism industry but also to anyone interested in the cultural and economic exchanges between these two neighbouring countries.

Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover this captivating intersection of holidays, tourism, and international relations.
Photo byCivic Holidays

The Significance of Canadian Civic Holidays

Canadian civic holidays hold a special place in the hearts of its citizens. They go beyond mere days off work or school; they form an integral part of the national identity, serving as a time for celebration, reflection, and unity. These holidays often commemorate historical events, honour open during the Civic Holiday in Canada, notable figures, or mark seasonal transitions—each carrying a unique cultural significance that resonates with Canadians from coast to coast.

For example, Victoria Day, observed on the last Monday before May 25, honours Queen Victoria's birthday and unofficially ushers in the summer season in Canada. Canada Day, observed on July 1st, signifies the historic union of the country's original three provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province, which encompasses present-day Ontario and Quebec) into a single nation in 1867.

Another noteworthy holiday is the Civic Holiday, observed on the first Monday of August. Although not a statutory holiday in all provinces and territories, it is widely recognized and celebrated across the country. The Civic Holiday, also known as Regatta Day in St. John's, Regatta Roulette, or simply the August Long Weekend, provides a summer respite and an opportunity for Canadians to partake in local festivals, fairs, and outdoor events. In some provinces like Alberta, this holiday is known as Heritage Day and is celebrated with various events and activities that reflect the province's rich cultural heritage.

Each of these holidays, among many others, plays a pivotal role in shaping Canada's cultural landscape. They offer a glimpse into the country's history, values, and communal spirit.

In the subsequent sections, we will delve into how these significant celebrations impact tourism in the United States, particularly in towns and cities situated near the Canadian border.

Canadian Tourism in the United States

Canadian tourism in the United States has long been a significant contributor to the US economy. With the countries sharing the world's longest international border, it has facilitated a steady flow of Canadians travelling south for various reasons, including leisure, business, and family visits. However, recent years, compounded by the ongoing pandemic, have witnessed notable changes in these trends.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Canadians made approximately 20.72 million trips to the United States in 2019. Nevertheless, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions led to a significant decline in these numbers. As of April 2022, the volume of returning Canadians more than doubled compared to the previous month but still remained less than half the pre-pandemic level.

The Unique Dynamics of Border Towns

US border towns, such as those in states like Maine, New York, Michigan, and Washington, have experienced distinct impacts due to these changes. These towns, which often witness an influx of Canadian visitors during civic holidays, have had to adapt to the fluctuating travel patterns.

For instance, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, despite its proximity to outdoor recreation in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, experienced a decline in visits throughout most of the pandemic. Lodging tax revenue fell by 24 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, and although revenue came close to 2019 levels in 2021, it did not surpass them.

Conversely, areas like Kalispell, Montana, saw an increase in American visitors that more than compensated for the loss of revenue from Canadians over the past two years. However, not all border communities were able to replace the diminished Canadian traffic. Grand Forks, North Dakota, for example, witnessed a significant drop in hotel occupancy. In May 2020, hotel occupancy fell by 27 percentage points compared to May 2019, and in May 2021, it decreased by 11.4 percentage points.

The value of the Canadian dollar also influences Canadian visits. Historically, when each Canadian dollar is worth a larger fraction of a U.S. dollar, Canadian visits tend to increase, while they decrease when the Canadian dollar is worth less. Presently, the Canadian dollar holds more value compared to 2019, which could potentially impact future travel trends.

These trends underscore the intricate and ever-evolving relationship between Canadian civic holidays and US tourism. As we delve further into the subsequent sections, we will explore the specific effects of Canadian civic holidays on tourism in these US border towns, as well as the broader economic implications of this captivating cross-border exchange.

Case Studies

In this section, we delve into a comprehensive analysis of specific instances where Canadian civic holidays have had a substantial influence on US tourism. We will be utilising real-time data and statistics to substantiate our points.

  • Victoria Day Impact on US Tourism: Victoria Day, celebrated in May, marks the start of the summer season in Canada. During this period, there is a noticeable surge in Canadian tourists visiting the US, particularly bordering states like New York and Michigan. According to data from the US National Travel and Tourism Office, there was a 7% increase in Canadian visitors to the US during May 2019 compared to the previous month. Moreover, the North Country Chamber of Commerce reported that car counts at the Champlain border were up more than 130% in the first quarter of 2023 compared to 2022, indicating a strong recovery of cross-border travel post-COVID-19.
  • Canada Day Impact on US Tourism: Canada Day, which falls on July 1st, is another significant holiday that affects US tourism. Many Canadians take advantage of the long weekend to visit popular US destinations. For instance, in 2019, there was a 5% increase in Canadian tourists visiting the US during the Canada Day weekend compared to the same period in the previous month.
  • Civic Holiday Impact on US Tourism: The Civic Holiday, celebrated on the first Monday of August, is a significant time for Canadians to travel. US businesses, particularly in border towns, often report increased activity and sales during this time, indicating a boost in cross-border tourism.
  • Thanksgiving Day Impact on US Tourism: Unlike in the US, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated in October. This difference in dates often leads to an influx of Canadian tourists in the US during the American Thanksgiving period in November. In 2019, there was a 6% increase in Canadian visitors to the US during November compared to October

These case studies underscore the significant impact Canadian civic holidays have on US tourism. The influx of Canadian tourists during these periods contributes to the US economy, particularly in sectors such as hospitality, retail, and transportation. It's important for US tourism stakeholders to understand these trends and prepare accordingly to maximise the benefits.

Economic Impact

The economic benefits that Canadian civic holidays bring to US tourism are substantial and multifaceted. These benefits are not only confined to the tourism sector but also permeate other sectors of the economy, such as retail, hospitality, and transportation.

  • Boost to Local Economy: Canadian tourists visiting the US during their civic holidays contribute significantly to the local economies, especially in border towns and cities. They spend on accommodation, dining, shopping, and entertainment, providing a boost to local businesses. For instance, Canadian visitors spent an estimated $16.4 billion in the US in 2018, according to a report by the U.S. Travel Association.
  • Job Creation: The influx of tourists leads to increased demand for services, which in turn creates more jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors. This has a ripple effect on the economy, leading to overall economic growth.
  • Positive Impact on Trade Balance: Travel from Canada to the US has a positive impact on the trade balance. In 2018, travel exports to Canada were estimated at $22.8 billion, resulting in a $12.9 billion travel trade surplus with Canada. Without this surplus, the overall US trade surplus with Canada would have been a deficit.
  • Significant Contribution to US Exports: International travel is the largest export of services from the US to Canada, accounting for 36% of total US services exports and 6.3% of all exports of goods and services from the US to Canada in 2018.
  • Resilience Amid Economic Fluctuations: Despite economic fluctuations and currency exchange rates, Canadian travel to the US has shown resilience. Many US destinations, particularly in border states, have managed to maintain a consistent base of Canadian travellers by offering to accept Canadian dollars at par.

These economic benefits underscore the importance of understanding the impact of Canadian civic holidays on US tourism. By recognizing these trends and preparing accordingly, stakeholders in the US tourism industry can maximise these benefits and contribute to the overall economic growth.

Cultural Exchange

The cultural exchange that occurs when Canadians visit the US during their holidays is a significant aspect of the relationship between the two countries. This exchange is not just about sharing and experiencing different cultures, but also about strengthening the bond between these two North American neighbours.

  • Shared Geography and Values: The bond between Canada and the United States is solidified through shared geography, common values, mutual interests, and profound connections. These shared aspects are often more pronounced during the times of Canadian civic holidays when Canadians visit the US, bringing with them their unique cultural practices and traditions.
  • Cultural Immersion: When Canadians travel to the US during their holidays, they immerse themselves in American culture, visiting historical sites, participating in local festivals, and engaging with the local communities. This cultural immersion leads to a better understanding and appreciation of American culture and way of life.
  • Strengthening Bilateral Relations: Cultural exchange through tourism strengthens the bilateral relations between Canada and the US. It fosters mutual understanding, respect, and friendship, which are essential for maintaining a strong and healthy relationship between the two countries.
  • Promoting Diversity and Inclusion: The cultural exchange also promotes diversity and inclusion. Canadians visiting the US bring with them diverse cultural perspectives, contributing to the multicultural fabric of American society. This diversity enriches the local communities and promotes a culture of inclusivity and acceptance.
  • Indigenous Cultural Exchange: There are many Canadian Indigenous people and U.S. Native American Tribes whose communities and cultures span the border. The cultural exchange between these communities during Canadian civic holidays contributes to the preservation and promotion of Indigenous cultures and traditions.

The cultural exchange that occurs during Canadian civic holidays is a testament to the strong and vibrant relationship between Canada and the US. It underscores the importance of maintaining and promoting this cultural exchange to strengthen the bond between the two countries.

VII. Conclusion

In this article, we have explored the multifaceted impact of Canadian civic holidays on US tourism. We began by understanding the significance of Canadian civic holidays and their cultural importance. We then delved into the general trend of Canadian tourism in the US, with a specific focus on border towns and cities.

Through detailed case studies, we examined specific instances where Canadian civic holidays have significantly impacted US tourism. We found that holidays such as Victoria Day, Canada Day, and the Civic Holiday lead to a surge in Canadian tourists visiting the US, particularly in bordering states.

We also analysed the economic benefits that these holidays bring to US tourism. Canadian tourists contribute significantly to the local economies, create jobs, and have a positive impact on the trade balance. International travel from Canada to the US is a significant contributor to US exports.

The cultural exchange that occurs when Canadians visit the US during their holidays is another crucial aspect. This exchange fosters mutual understanding, promotes diversity and inclusion, and strengthens the bilateral relations between the two countries.

In conclusion, Canadian civic holidays have a profound impact on US tourism, contributing to the economy and fostering cultural exchange. Understanding these trends and their implications is crucial for stakeholders in the US tourism industry to maximise these benefits and contribute to the overall economic growth and cultural richness of the country.

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Annie Charles. Actress: Above the Rim. Annie Charles is known for Above the Rim (1994), Hawkeye (1994) and Robin of Locksley (1996). For any editorial contact me at

Chittenden County, VT

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