The Two Faces of Tourism: Why Do Canadians Travel Abroad?

By Salloum, Habeeb | Contemporary Review, March 2005 | Go to article overview

The Two Faces of Tourism: Why Do Canadians Travel Abroad?


Salloum, Habeeb, Contemporary Review


Editor's Note: In last month's issue the author appraised Canada as a tourist destination, now he explores why millions of Canadians travel abroad.

I WILL not forget the time when I was travelling in Cuba, a few years back, after the USSR had disappeared from the map. The Cubans appeared to have literally nothing when compared to their wealthy neighbours to the north. Upon seeting the affluent Canadians enjoy in their hotels the finer things of life, I am sure they felt resentment. Pedro, my taxi driver expressed this well when he said: 'Why do you rich Canadians come to this country? You have everything. We have nothing'. Sitting back he suggested, 'I know! You come for our sunshine and beaches!' He reflected a minute, 'Maybe to take back our beautiful women!' He grinned.

Pedro was partially right. Probably not very many were going to take Cuban women back home, but a great section of Canadian holiday travellers flock to the Caribbean and other warm countries to escape the cold winter weather. However, this is only a part of the saga of Canadian vacationers. The people of Canada are great travellers who, in most cases, are welcomed with open arms wherever they go.

Even though the population of Canada is very small, some 32 million, for such a huge country, at any one time 1.5 million Canadians live and work abroad, and annually millions of Canadians travel all over the world for business, but mostly for pleasure. At any time, there are 1.5 million to 2 million Canadians travelling outside Canada. When meandering in foreign lands many tourists from other countries encounter difficulties. However, for years Canadians, in most parts of the world, have been considered the most pleasant of vacationers.

Some American backpackers, especially after the invasion of Iraq, place Canadian flags on their travelling gear, hoping to deflect the abounding anti-American sentiment erupting around the world. Some travel publications in the US are said to have recommended the use of the Canadian flag, especially when travelling to Middle Eastern countries. This is not a new phenomenon. At the time of the Vletnam War, Canadians travelling the world would put the maple leaf flag on their lapels, lest they be mistaken for Americans. More than three decades later, the maple leaf still conveys the same message. Canada is one of the most beautiful and safest places to live in the industrial world and in the international sphere, one of the most respected nations.

Perhaps, Canada's Consular Affairs Bureau, which is set up to help Canadians prepare for foreign travel and to provide them with a variety of services once they are abroad, has had a hand in conveying this bright image of Canada. Thanks to this government department, travellers can obtain information about their foreign destinations before leaving the country and are informed on how to prepare for their departure. On the other hand, Canada's foreign policy, such as its support of the United Nations' efforts in all parts of the world and its refusal to participate in unjust foreign wars, has had a hand in creating the pleasant image for Canadians travelling in foreign lands.

Yet, in spite of Canada's bright world image outside North America, the vast majority of Canadians still travel to the US. Canadians travel there much more often and in greater numbers than to anywhere else in the world. In 2002, more than thirteen million Canadians visited the US. In 2005, it is expected that more than two million Canadian tourists will visit the US state of Florida alone--more than the combined number of tourists vacationing in that state from the next three most represented countries (United Kingdom, Venezuela and Germany) combined.

After the US, Canadians journeying to Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba account for more than one-half of all visitors to those southern countries. The growing trend in southern tourism is expected to increase. …

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