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Shopping is the number one activity for visitors to Canada, according to The Canadian Tourism Commission. 2012 was the first year that shopping beat out sightseeing. Chinese visitors are substantially up, possibly benefiting Canadian luxury retail.
The above diagram highlights the numbers of foreign tourists, reflecting 2012 over 2011. About 16 million international visitors came to Canada in 2012, up from 2011. They spent about $12.3 billion, showing the importance of tourism to Canadian retailers. Not all regions saw equal tourist numbers, however.
Of 18.2 million visitors to Canadian provinces, 7.7 million (or about 42%) went to Ontario while 4.3 million (or about 23%) went to British Columbia. Quebec and Alberta had most of the rest.
Of that same 18.2 million visitors, about 60% are from the United States. Other top visiting countries include The United Kingdom, France, Germany and China. China's growth is what got us interested.
Chinese visitors to Canada increased almost 60% in 2012 over 2011. Many Chinese tourists spend substantial sums in stores abroad. Many seek expensive brand-name products. If a similar tourism trend continues, we could see more luxury retailers opening in Canada that cater to affluent Chinese tourists. A source at Holt Renfrew tells us that about 80% of luxury items purchased in its Vancouver store are to speakers of a Chinese language.
Canada lacks many of the luxury retailers found in some American and European cities. We expect that will soon change. We'll be doing articles on what new luxury retailers are expected to open, and we'll analyze what brands we expect will go where. Labels like Valentino and Bottega Veneta are likely on the horizon to open full-sized Canadian stores, for example. Keep reading for updates.