Market Overview

    Yr/Yr % Chg
Visitors to California (2014) * 1,625,000 3.7%
Visitor Spending (2014) ** $2,270 million 3.8%
California Market Share (2014) 7.1% -
Average Length of Stay - nights (2013) 5 -
Weekly Non-Stop Flights (2015) 381 5.9%
Weekly Non-Stop Seats (2015) 49,882 8.7%
2015 Visitation Forecast (% change vs. 2014) 1,717,000 5.0%
2018 Visitation Forecast (% change vs. 2014) 1,987,000 21.5%

Source: Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, CIC Research, Tourism Economics, OAG

* Visitor volumes: The U.S. Department of Commerce started to count one-night visitors in 2014. This change inflated Yr/Yr visitation gains compared to previous years but delivers a more accurate picture of total visitation.

** Visitor spending: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis made changes to their methodology in 2014 to include spending by students, temporary workers, and people traveling for reasons related to their health. Although this change increased total travelers, some Yr/Yr declines in spending per visitor have been seen which are more likely related to the gaining strength of the US dollar vs. foreign currencies in the 4th quarter of 2014.


International Markets

Canada is one of California’s leading international markets. Visit California has had a presence in Canada since 2009 with public relations and brand advertising. In 2014, Visit California added travel trade representation to the market.

California consistently ranks in the Top 10 U.S. destinations attracting 1.6 million visitors from Canada in 2014. Proximity to California accounts for a high rate of repeat visitation presenting both opportunities and challenges for California’s tourism industry. Canadians feel they know what California has to offer, but frequently don’t grasp the ways to enjoy a different kind of California vacation, leading them to travel other U.S. destinations, such as Las Vegas or New York.


After extended periods of exchange rates at parity with the United States, the Canadian dollar reached a new six-year low at $0.80 in January 2015. Falling oil prices have significantly affected the Canadian economy, including exchange rates, consumer price index and consumer confidence. The drop in the value of the dollar is not considered harmful to the overall health of the country’s economy as it allows for increased export trade. Many analysts identify $0.82 as the tipping point for the Canadian exchange rate, however, factors including higher cost of goods and services in Canada, have in shown that Canadians will continue to travel. As the value Canadian dollar decreases, Canadian consumer and travel patterns will be affected, including a focus on value both in terms of value for money experiences and added-value and discount offerings.

Historically, Canada has seen consistent growth and visitation to California over the past 10 years. Proximity, strong airlift, no language barriers and product knowledge will continue to benefit visitation to California.


Nonstop Airservice into California

    Avg Weekly Flights Avg Weekly Seats  
Airport Airline 378.0603 49619 Cities Served
LAX Air Canada 90 14428 Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver
  Alaska Airlines 7 1135 Vancouver
  American  29 2918 Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver
  Delta Airlines  14 1058 Vancouver
  United Airlines 7 495 Kelowna, Vancouver
  Westjet 33 5056 Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver
PSP Air Canada 1 175 Vancouver
  Westjet 25 4067 Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg 
SAN  Air Canada 7 925 Toronto
  Westjet 5 803 Calgary
SFO Air Canada 64 9498 Montreal, Toront, Vancouver
  United Airlines 82 7067 Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver, Victoria  
  Westjet 7 1044 Calgary, Vancouver
SNA Westjet 7 952 Vancouver



With the consolidation by Air Canada to Air Canada Rouge on select California routes, capacity to California on the country’s largest carrier has increased dramatically. The carrier is dominant in travel from eastern Canada and is seeking to gain market share from western Canada by adding routes from Vancouver.

In 2014, arrivals from Canada into California airports increased 8.7 percent from 2013, which represents the second highest increase from any other country except China.

Each year, roughly 5 million Canadians cross the U.S. border on land to fly from U.S. airports for less expensive fares due to high government taxes at Canadian airports. Given the falling value of the Canadian dollar and growing trend of Canadians departing from U.S. airports, some analysts predict carriers will be forced to reduce prices to fill capacity.

Travel Trends

  • Canadians want personalized and more custom travel experiences
  • Budget-friendly offerings will be considered more intensely as the U.S. dollar climbs.
  • Youth travel will increase by 9 percent, with nearly 5 million millennials aged 25 to 34 in Canada.
  • Young travelers may save on accommodations, but they are still willing to spend on an active adventure travel experience.
  • Canadians are eager to get their fill of sports with the Pan Am Games and FIFA coming to Canada, as well an overall increase in attention to health, wellness and active living.
  • Foodie culture has become mainstream with celebrity chefs, online reviews and cooking shows spotlighting cuisine from around the world. Travelers have a renewed emphasis to participate in cooking classes and celebrity chef tours.
  • Ethical travel: Passionate travelers are looking to sustainable tourism offerings.
  • Diversity: Spanish is the most-spoken and fastest growing foreign language in Canada. The demographic is young, well-educated, well-employed and urban.

Market Strategies


  • Paid media strategy includes a mix of television and digital media. Visit California’s “Dreamers” and “Kids at Play” commercial assets are used with a national buy in the spring planning season.
  • Dream365TV – a new online hub with a more intuitive viewing environment and categorization of video content for easy navigation – will launch in Canada in conjunction with the spring media flight.
  • Travel trade was added to programming to complement the existing public relations efforts.
  • Focus remains to increase visitation and beyond-the-gateways messaging supported by the five experience pillars.
  • Key strategies for trade outreach are increased agent training – in-person, through the online training program and via familiarization trips – and emphasis on converting retail agents to California Experts, expanding trade relationships, developing statewide product and maintaining a strong market presence.
  • Ongoing public relations activities include media pitching, securing press visits, hosting media events and producing the first joint public relations and trade mission to Toronto in May 2015.


  • The paid media budget is expected to double, which will increase reach and allow for broadcast television to complement the existing specialty cable buy.
  • Fall and spring television flights will be extended by two additional weeks to influence the key travel periods in winter and summer.
  • Increase in digital media spend, along with possible sport network partnership, will be new additions.
  • Enhanced cooperative trade marketing partnerships, training and incentives, and public relations outreach.
  • New programming geared to reach the French-speaking Canadian market, an affluent traveler with a high desire for travel, will be developed for trade and public relations programming.
  • Increased public relations opportunities include hosting additional top-tier editorial media, continuation of the California media events in key cities, as well as increased emphasis on digital influencers.

2015/2016 Plan Highlights

Consumer, trade and Public relations plan highlights in the expanded budget environment will include:

  • A continuation of brand campaigns (TV and digital) to include increase flights and exploration of partnership opportunities.
  • Partnering with key airline partners for consumer and trade cooperative programs.
  • New trade partnerships with mainstream and niche operators to deepen the California product offerings across the state.
  • Host a Club California-style live training event in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
  • Create relevant French-language materials targeting opportunity markets in Quebec for trade and media members.
  • Increase FAM trips for trade members geared toward product development and beyond-the-gateway messaging.
  • Increase high-profile media visits with a focus on securing higher levels of targeted broadcast coverage and integration partnerships with editorial media.
  • Build on digital influencer program and develop wider scope multi-channel media content partnerships.
  • Bring a taste of California to Canada and generate traditional media and social buzz through PR stunts and partnerships. 

Familiarity & Interest of California Areas

  Like to Visit Like to Learn More About It I'm Not Interested
Los Angeles County 76% 24% 5%
San Diego County 68% 31% 6%
San Francisco Bay Area 68% 29% 7%
Deserts 49% 37% 17%
North Coast 41% 48% 13%
Central Coast 38% 53% 12%
Central Valley 38% 53% 12%
Orange County 35% 50% 17%
High Sierra 33% 54% 16%
Gold Country 33% 55% 16%
Shasta Cascade 29% 54% 20%
Inland Empire 26% 53% 23%

Source: Hall & Partners, August 2012

Top 10 Motivating California Features

San Francisco 47%
Napa Valley/Wineries 36%
Disneyland 33%
Beaches 32%
Highway 1/California Coastline 29%
San Diego 29%
California Redwoods 23%
Hollywood 21%
Universal Studios Hollywood 21%
Los Angeles 19%

Source: Hall & Partners, August 2012


Maureen Haley
Managing Director
Sonia Reid
Travel Trade Manager
Ally Carlson
Public Relations & Content Manager
Tara Barnes
Event Manager
Lyndsey Vas
Account Coordinator

Development Counsellors International
Phone: 416 362 0808

Thank you to our Golden State Sponsors:
MeringCarson Time Inc