Travel Activities and Motivations Survey

Ontario's Immigrant Travel Market and Its Impact on Domestic Travel

Report available in pdf format

Ontario's cultural diversity is one of its distinctive and definitive features. In 20061, 30% (or almost 3 million) of the nearly 10 million people, over the age of 18 living in Ontario, were born outside of Canada. Significantly, for more than half of Ontarians: either one or both parents were born outside Canada. The continued arrival of immigrants in Ontario will reshape the ethnic and racial landscape of the province over the next 20 years. In fact, by 2025 it is anticipated that 36% of Ontario's population will be foreign-born. Given the fact that Ontario residents currently account for 75% of all visits in the province, these are critical facts in determining a strategy which will guide the province's tourism development Understanding the province's changing demographics is critical to arriving at an informed action plan that will satisfy the residents' changed travel needs and wants. The objective of this report is to examine the rapid changes expected in the composition of the province's population, to identify the association between cultural background and travel behaviour, and to begin to understand the implications for Ontario's tourism sector. To this end, this study groups Ontario residents into five different population segments:

  • 3rd+ GC residents (3rd or more Generation Canadian residents): Ontario residents who were born in Canada and who have at least one parent who was born in Canada
  • 2nd GC residents (2nd Generation Canadian residents): Ontario residents who were born in Canada, and whose parents were both born outside Canada
  • WEOCUSA-born residents: Ontario residents who were born in Western or Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, or the USA
  • Asian-born Torontonians: Ontario residents who were born in Asia and who live in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA). These Ontarians account for the vast majority (82%) of Asian-born residents of Ontario
  • OC-born residents: Ontario residents who were born in all other countries, including Southern or Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern or Southern Europe, Africa, other Oceania and Antarctica, as well as Asian-born residents (18%) who do not live in the Toronto CMA.

Of the 3 million Ontario residents who were born outside of Canada, 44% were born in Europe, 32% were born in Asia, 15% were born in Central America/Caribbean/South America, and the remaining 9% were born in Africa, North America, and other countries. There is a significant difference in the timing of the arrival of Asian-born residents and those who were born in Western or Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, or the USA. Compared to the relatively recent arrival of the Asian-born residents, the WEOCUSA-born group has been established for a much longer period of time.

  • Asian-born residents, as a group, were relatively new to Canada — 42% arrived in the last decade (1996 – 2006), 37% between 1981 and 1995, and only 1% prior to 1966.
  • Ontario residents who were born in Western or Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand or the USA (WEOCUSA-born) were the most established of the immigrant groups — 48% had arrived in Canada before 1966, 31% between 1966 and 1980, and only 8% in the most recent decade.

When compared to Canadian-born residents, Ontario's foreign-born residents are quite dissimilar demographically. These dissimilarities are important to identify — insofar as they may account for and predict behavioural differences in terms of travel. By identifying key demographic factors — such as place of residence, age, income, and education level—and their effects on travel behaviour, a more detailed and informative understanding of each of the foreign-born population segments emerges. These factors, then, provide the basis for identifying specific sub-groups of the foreign-born population and for generating an informed understanding of how to appeal most effectively to them in promoting travel and tourism.

The following are some of the key demographic attributes that describe Ontario's foreign-born residents:

  • Foreign-born residents are, geographically, highly concentrated: two-thirds (66%) of Ontario's foreign-born residents are clustered in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA). Ontario residents who were born in Asia or in Central/South America/the Caribbean were the most geographically concentrated of all immigrant groups: 82% and 79%, respectively, lived in the Toronto metropolitan area..
  • Foreign-born residents were, on average, older than Canadian-born residents (47.4 years vs. 44.8 years). WEOCUSA-born residents were the oldest group (an average of 56.3 years), whereas Asian-born residents were the youngest (an average of 40.8 years).
  • As newcomers to Canada, foreign-born residents started at a lower level of household income than their Canadian-born counterparts. In 2005, foreign-born residents had an average household income of $68,900, which is approximately eight percent less than that of Canadian-born residents. Of the foreign-born residents, the WEOCUSA-born residents had the highest household income.
  • Compared to Canadian-born residents, foreign-born residents had achieved significantly higher levels of education. Thus, 36% of foreign-born residents held university degrees, compared to 27% of Canadian born-residents. Asian-born Torontonians were the best educated of all population groups.

Travel Patterns of Foreign-born Residents

In 2004 and 2005, 84% of all Ontario residents took at least one overnight trip somewhere in the world. The Asian-born Torontonians and OC-born (those born in "other countries") residents were the least likely to take an overnight trip: 76% of those in these two sub-groups took such trips. In contrast, foreign-born residents were more likely than Canadian-born residents to take trips overseas. Of course, that finding is to be expected: in that they would be motivated to travel abroad by their desire to maintain links with relatives and/or friends in their home country.

Over the same two year period, 70% of Ontario residents made overnight trips within the province Once again, residents who were born in Asia or other countries were noticeably less likely to travel in Ontario (55% and 54%, respectively).

30% of Ontario residents travelled in Northern Ontario in 2004 or 2005. All three immigrant segments were less likely to visit Northern Ontario than those who were born in Canada. Asian-born Torontonians were the least likely to do so: as only 16% visited Northern Ontario. When Ontario's foreign-born residents do travel within the province, they take fewer trips than Canadian-born residents. Thus, foreign-born residents took an average of 3.0 overnight pleasure trips within Ontario over the two-year period, compared to 3.6 pleasure trips taken by Canadian-born travellers. Asian-born and OC-born travellers made even fewer pleasure trips within the province than other residents (2.7 and 2.8 trips respectively).

A resident's country of birth does appear to have a significant impact on his or her incidence of overnight travel, whether in Ontario or anywhere else in the world. However, this immigrant effect is moderated, in most cases, by such factors as education and household income: as is the case with Canadian-born residents, as the income of foreign-born residents increases, their incidence of travel increases. However, for all income levels less than $180,000, there is a distinct difference between these two groups' incidence of travel in Ontario. It takes on average $50,000 more in household income for a foreign-born resident to have the same incidence of travel in Ontario as a Canadian-born resident. However, at household incomes of $180,000 or more, this difference disappears: that is, the incidence of travel within Ontario is the same for a foreign-born and Canadian-born resident. Interest in Outdoor and Cultural and Entertainment Activities 37% of Ontario travellers exhibited an interest in outdoor activities — with 14% showing a high interest and 23% showing a moderate interest. Canadian-born residents expressed above-average interest in outdoor activities, while below-average levels of interest were evident among all immigrant population segments. Asian-born Torontonians and OC-born travellers were the least likely to be interested in outdoor activities. While the most popular outdoor activities for Ontario travellers were activities such as swimming, snorkelling, and scuba diving, boating-related activities (such as motor boating and water skiing), wildlife viewing-related activities, fishing, hiking, climbing and paddling-related activities, some of the more noticeable differences among the various population segments include:

  • 3rd+ GC travellers (3rd or more Generation Canadians) were more likely to participate in activities such as hunting, motorcycling, snowmobiling, and ATVing;
  • 2nd GC travellers (2nd or more Generation Canadians) were more likely to engage in horseback riding, freshwater scuba diving, and snorkelling;
  • WEOCUSA-born travellers had a higher interest in cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, and sailing or surfing; while
  • Asian-born Torontonians and OC-born travellers were more likely to seek activities requiring less energy or strength, including wildlife viewing, sports and games, hiking, climbing or paddling.

38% of Ontario travellers exhibited an interest in cultural and entertainment activities — with 14% indicating a high interest and 24% a moderate interest. The WEOCUSA-born, 2nd GC and 3rd+ GC segments all expressed above-average levels of interest in cultural and entertainment activities. By contrast, Asian-born Torontonians and OC-born travellers indicated below-average levels of interest in cultural and entertainment activities. Overall, however, foreign-born travellers expressed a higher level of interest in cultural and entertainment-related activities than they did in outdoor activities.

The most popular cultural and entertainment activities for Ontario travellers were shopping and dining, visiting historic sites, museums or art galleries, and attending fairs and festivals. However, there were, distinct individual activity preferences associated with each population segment:

  • 3rd+ GC travellers were more likely to engage in sports-related activities such as attending equestrian/western events and amateur tournaments;
  • 2nd GC travellers were more likely visit spas and attend professional sporting events;
  • WEOCUSA-born travellers had a higher level of interest in food or wine tasting events, and high art performances;
  • Asian-born Torontonian travellers exhibited a higher level of interest in garden-themed attractions and agro-tourism; and
  • OC-born travellers were also more likely to be interested in garden-themed attractions and agro-tourism, but expressed above average interest in attending high art performances and aboriginal cultural experiences.

The different activity preferences associated with the respective foreign-born segments underline the importance of recognizing such differences in order to maximize product development and marketing. Quite simply, as the province's population becomes increasingly diverse, its tourism product mix must be adjusted accordingly to reflect their changed preference patterns. Changes on the supply-side must reflect changes on the demand-side. At the same time, these preferences could be influenced. For example, by offering a variety of educational and community programs that will aim to familiarize specific segments of the population with the province's outdoor products and opportunities, the reluctance of foreign-born residents to engage in these activities maybe overcome. Similarly, foreign-born residents' relative lack of interest in traveling to Northern Ontario poses a challenge which must be addressed through education and promotion as well as through changes to the product offering. By recognizing the diversity in tourism preferences, such strategies would represent informed, proactive measures designed to more effectively market existing products and create new ones.

Travel Benefits and Destination Attributes Sought from Pleasure Trips Most Ontario travellers identified the most important benefits of taking a pleasure trip to be: getting a break from their day-to-day environment, relieving stress, or enriching their relationship with others. However, there were some differences across the various population segments. Not surprisingly, Asian-born Torontonian travellers and OC-born travellers were more likely to seek pleasure trips that would allow them to maintain and reinforce family ties. WEOCUSA-born travellers were more interested in experiencing different cultures and places than were any of the other population segments. 2nd GC travellers were more likely to seek out trips which would allow them to have stories to share.

In choosing a destination, Ontario travellers most frequently identified two attributes as being highly important: ‘feeling safe' and ‘having no health concerns.' Beyond these "universal" considerations, 3rd+ GC travellers were more likely to consider it important that a destination offer camping opportunities, while 2nd GC travellers were looking for destinations with mid-range to luxury accommodation. WEOCUSA-born travellers were more likely to look for destinations that had direct access by air, while Asian-born travellers were more likely to look for destinations that had lots of things for children and/or adults to do. OC-born travellers were more likely to seek out destinations where relatives or friends were living.

Ontario's Population in 2025 By 2025, Ontario's adult population will reach 12.2 million: an increase of 26% over that of 2006. Ontario's adult population will grow more quickly than the overall Canadian adult population, increasing Ontario's proportion of the total adult population in Canada from 39% in 2006 to 42% in 2025. This increase in the adult population will be accompanied by some other significant changes in the population's composition:

  • A higher proportion of Ontarians will be over the age of 55 (41% in 2025 compared to 30% in 2006). This increase is most pronounced amongst Ontarians over 65 (who will make up 24% of the population in 2025, as compared to 16% in 2006).
  • As the population ages, it is expected that the proportion of Ontarians with lower household incomes will also increase. For example, the proportion of those with incomes less than $40,000 is projected to increase from 21% in 2006 to 23% in 2025. At the same time, the proportion of households with children under 12 will decline from 20% in 2006 to 17% in 2025.
  • Over the same period, the number of Ontarians who were born in Canada will increase at slower rates (15%) than the overall average (26%). By 2025, 36% of Ontario's population will be foreign-born: the province will have 50% more foreign-born residents in 2025 than it did in 2006.

Ontario's Domestic Travel Market in 2025 Ontario's tourism industry will need to respond to the changing demographic composition of the population and the resulting differences in travel preferences, expectations, and behaviour. As the population ages, while at the same time becomes increasingly composed of more foreign-born residents, the need to adapt to these changing realities is critical to insuring a healthy tourism and travel industry. By understanding how these population changes are altering markets, the industry can establish new priorities, consumer targets, and marketing strategies. The following select projections provide an indication of the extent of the changes that will unfold in Ontario by 2025:

  • The proportion of Ontarians travelling within the province is expected to decline by three percentage points in 2025 over 2006, while the proportion of Ontarians taking trips overseas is expected to increase. Had the population mix in 2025 remained the same as it was in 2006, Ontario would have had 2.3 million trips more than the number projected for 2025 — a result which is attributed to the combined "immigrant" and "aging" effects.
  • The proportion of Ontarians participating in outdoor activities is expected to decline by 2025, which will affect a host of sectors and stakeholders across the province. The proportion of travellers who participate in non-strenuous activities such as wildlife viewing and golfing is likely to decline at a slower rate than the proportion of those who participate in strenuous activities such as downhill skiing or snowboarding, and cycling.
  • However, the proportion of Ontarians participating in cultural and entertainment activities is expected to increase. The growth in the proportion of Ontarians participating in activities related to spectator sports, high art performances, and theatre is expected to exceed the growth rate of the overall Ontario traveller population. These projected changes point to the need to prioritize related projects and initiatives.
  • The proportion of Ontarians participating in family-oriented activities — such as visiting theme parks and exhibits — is likely to decline given the higher proportion of Ontarians who will live in one-person or adult-only households in 2025.
  • The travel benefits sought by Ontarians are likely to change by 2025. A moderate increase in the proportion of Ontarians seeking travel experiences that allow them to learn about other cultures and places is anticipated — hence the anticipated increase in the incidence of travel to overseas destinations. Meanwhile, as a higher proportion of Ontarians will be retired in 2025, it is expected that there will be a decline in the proportion of those seeking travel experiences aimed at relaxing and relieving stress. Tourism operators and marketers will need to adjust both their offerings and their promotions appropriately — depending on the target market.
  • In keeping with the aging population, there will be an increase in the proportion of Ontarians who will consider it important that a destination accommodates those with disabilities, and that it is accessible by public transportation or by car. On the other hand, the proportion of Ontarians seeking destinations which have camping facilities or destinations which feature activities aimed at children is also anticipated to decline.

In 2025, Ontario's tourism industry will clearly be appealing to a population which, by virtue of its age, will be seeking travel experiences that are less strenuous and less family-oriented, while being more readily accessible and emphasizing cultural and entertainment activities. At the same time, the need to respond to the foreign-born population's travel and tourism priorities will consist of recognizing and responding to its specific needs and expectations

Marketing Opportunities among Foreign-born Residents Cultural and demographic differences between Canadian-born and foreign-born residents are also evident across media consumption patterns.

  • Foreign-born residents exhibit a strong preference for ethnic language media over the mainstream media. For example, a higher proportion of Asian-born Torontonians and OC-born residents more frequently read "other" newspapers as compared to the average Ontario resident. Multicultural radio programs were also popular with Asian-born Torontonians and OC-born residents. Even those immigrants, who have lived in Canada for a lengthy period of time (at least seven years), still spent 41% of their media time reading or viewing ethnic media sources 2
  • Compared to other Ontarians, Asian-born Torontonians had a higher preference for newspapers and were more likely to watch shopping and cooking shows on television. They were also more likely than other Ontario residents to rely on the website of an official tourism authority (country, province, and city) for travel information. WEOCUSA-born residents were more likely to read magazines (especially travel magazines and regional magazines) and watch television programs on history and travel.

In summary, Ontario's immigrant population is and will continue to have a significant impact on the province's domestic travel. The industry does not have the luxury to wait until this population segment becomes "more Canadian" — so to speak — with respect to travel patterns. Indeed, given that it takes about 40 years for Asian-born Torontonians to develop the same habits as Canadian-born residents, with respect to travel within Ontario, waiting passively for desired changes is clearly impractical and unrealistic. Instead, if the industry is going to engage these newer residents now, it will need to address both what it is offering to this population segment and how it is going to communicate with it.

At the same time, longer-term strategies relating to product and market development should also be considered now. For example, in terms of developing the province's outdoor product, one possible strategy to overcome the Asian community's lack of interest in it would involve having the tourism industry develop partnerships aimed at communicating with school children. By encouraging children to experience the province's outdoor product, the industry might significantly alter attitudes and preferences within that segment of the population when it gets older. Indeed, research conducted by the Ministry of Tourism indicates that loyalty to Ontario's outdoor product remains strong throughout an Ontarian's life if the individual was exposed to the outdoors in childhood. Therefore, such an initiative might yield long-term and long-lasting benefits.

The dramatic transformation in Ontario's population, which is projected to occur over the next fifteen to twenty years, is at once a significant challenge and an opportunity for Ontario's travel and tourism industry. By recognizing the importance of demographic changes, the industry is the enviable position of being able to make informed choices and changes. Furthermore, in formulating new priorities, based on these projected changes, the industry is afforded the opportunity to both anticipate and shape the emerging market. However, given the changes in the province's population composition, "tried and true" methods of communicating with consumers and marketing products will have to be adapted to the changing face of Ontario. If Ontario's residents are to respond to the tourism industry's appeal to "discover Ontario," the industry must "discover Ontarians."

1 The February 2006 population estimates, Statistics Canada

2 Lee, W. N., and Tse, D. K. (1994) Changing media consumption in a new home: Acculturation patterns among Hong Kong immigrants to Canada. Journal of Advertising 23 (1), 57-70.