International Travel Survey: Frontier Counts (ITS)

Detailed information for March 2017





Record number:


The International Travel Survey (ITS) provides statistics on travellers, to and from Canada. The Frontier Counts component provides a full range of statistics on the number of international travellers by selected category and by type of transportation as well as the number of automobiles, trucks and other vehicles (motorcycles, snowmobiles, bicycles) entering Canada.

Data release - April 10, 2017, Leading indicator of cross-border traveller volume (preliminary)


Frontier Counts is a component of the International Travel Survey Program (ITS). Since the 1920s, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has supplied Statistics Canada with administrative data on all international travellers who have been cleared for entry or re-entry into Canada.

The Frontier Counts component provides a full range of statistics on the number of international travellers by selected category and by type of transportation as well as the number of automobiles, trucks and other vehicles (motorcycles, snowmobiles, bicycles) entering Canada.

ITS Frontier Counts data are used by the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), CBSA, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), Citizenship and Immigration, provincial tourism agencies, the United States Department of Commerce and a number of private sector industries. The data are also used for reporting to international organizations such as the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Pacific-Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Statistical activity

The survey is currently administered as part of the International Travel Survey (ITS) Program. The program has been conducted by Statistics Canada since the 1920s to meet the requirements of the Canadian System of National Accounts (Balance of Payments (BOP)). Through the years, the need for detailed characteristics of travellers for market research and tourism industry planning was gradually incorporated in the ITS program. Today, the ITS provides a full range of statistics on the volume of international travellers and detailed characteristics of their trips such as expenditures, activities, places visited and length of stay.


  • International travel
  • Travel and tourism

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population is all international travellers entering Canada either by air, sea or land. The travellers are distributed into categories of flows which are, Canadian residents returning to Canada from the United States, Canadian residents returning to Canada from countries other than the U.S., United States residents entering Canada, Residents of countries other than U.S. entering Canada and finally "Other" travellers which consist of foreign and resident crew members, diplomats, military personnel, immigrants and former residents.

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


Depending on the mode of entry into Canada, the frontier counts correspond either to a complete census or is done on a sample basis (selection of Customs Declaration cards for the air travellers).

Data sources

Data are extracted from administrative files.

The frontier count is done using the information collected about the entrants into Canada recorded on forms by CBSA officials. Each port of entry sends in its administrative data according to an understanding signed by Statistics Canada and CBSA.

At all ports of entry across Canada, a count is done to determine the number of travellers by selected categories, by type of transportation, as well as the number of vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles and bicycles) in the case of highway and ferry points.

The information collected in the 18 largest international airports is recorded on Custom Declaration cards (E-311). The information about the number of travellers, country of residence and the type of entry is used to estimate the frontier counts by type of travellers and airport. The data capture is done on a sample basis or on a census basis, depending on the travellers' type and the size of the airport. For the other airports, administrative data recorded on E-63 forms, which correspond to a census, are obtained to produce estimates. The E-63 forms collect information on the number of passengers and crew members of commercial and private crafts entering Canada.

CANPASS, a telephone reporting system, registers the number of travellers entering Canada by private plane or boat. The system also allows in certain ports of entry, the counts of pre-authorized travellers entering by cars that own a special permit without having to interact with a CBSA agent. Estimates are produced to determine the number of travellers for each car registered with CANPASS.

For the other land ports of entry, the information is collected on a census basis. The counts are recorded in different ways, either on E-62 Entry Tallies, E-62B for bus, E-62T for trucks or by the Primary Automated Lookout System (PALS). The number of travellers, country of residence, transportation mode and length of stay are obtained from these forms and are used for the estimation of frontier counts.

Error detection

The administrative forms received from each port of entry are edited prior to processing the enclosed data. Various verifications are done during the data capture to ensure the precision of the data and that there are no missing values. Contacts with CBSA ports are initiated when data gaps exist.


When there is missing data for a traveller category for a specific port of entry, imputation will be done. The imputation process is done manually. Historical data, auxiliary information and information obtained from comparable ports of entry are used in the imputation process.


In the case of frontier counts done on a census basis, the estimation is the direct sum of the data obtained. In the case of data obtained from the 18 international airports, the estimation of the number of travellers for the different categories is obtained by weighting the number of sampled cards in relation to the total number of cards. The weight obtained is then applied for the total number of travellers reported on each card. The variance is calculated directly.

Quality evaluation

A monitoring system has been established to compare incoming information with information available from independent sources, such as toll figures, airport management reports, provincial road counters, etc. Direct contact with the port authorities permits the verification and explanation of irregular fluctuations in reported figures. During the verification and analysis of estimates for the current month, comparisons are made with estimates from the previous year's same reference month. At this stage, errors or inconsistencies are identified and corrective measures are taken.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, company, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

All seasonally-adjusted data may be revised every month for three months prior to the month studied and every year for the three years prior to the year studied.

Some not seasonally-adjusted data for a specific quarter may be revised once the data from the mail-back questionnaires for that quarter are available. These include same-day and overnight data for United States residents entering by commercial plane, train, commercial boat or other methods (for example, by foot or motorcycle) and any summation of these series. They also include same-day and overnight data for Canadian residents returning from the United States by commercial plane, private plane, train, commercial boat, private boat or other methods (for example, by foot or motorcycle) and any summation of these series.

The seasonal adjustments consider seasonal components, trading day effects and moving holiday factors. Seasonally-adjusted series are calculated using Statistics Canada's X-12 ARIMA program in which components of a seasonal time series are removed.

Data accuracy

In the case of air travellers for which we use a sample of customs declaration cards, the coefficients of variation (CV) of the estimates vary from less than 1% to 5%. Coverage errors are not calculated but are considered to be low. For E-311 customs declaration cards, coverage errors are insignificant because travellers are obligated to hand in their cards to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers. The other customs declaration cards are filled out by CBSA officers. Therefore the coverage error is expected to be low. CANPASS users are also obligated to report to CBSA officers.

Processing errors are not calculated. However, many safeguards and a thorough analysis of the data ensure that the processing error is negligible.

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