Frontier Counts (FC)

Detailed information for November 2018





Record number:


The Frontier Counts data provide 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 entering Canada.

Data release - December 11, 2018 (Leading indicator of cross-border traveller volume); January 23, 2019 (Travel between Canada and other countries)


Since the 1920s, the 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 data provide 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, etc.) entering Canada.

Frontier Counts data are used by the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), CBSA, Destination Canada, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 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). As well, the Frontier Counts data are used as benchmarks of population counts in the weighting of other tourism surveys.

Reference period: Month

Collection period: During the month following the reference month.


  • International travel
  • Tourism indicators
  • Transportation
  • Travel and tourism

Data sources and methodology

Target population

For the Frontier Counts, the target population is all international travellers entering Canada by port of entry either by air, sea or land. The international travellers are distributed into categories of flows which are, Canadian residents returning to Canada from the United States only, Canadian residents returning to Canada from countries other than the United States (direct or via the United States), United States residents entering Canada, Residents of countries other than the United States entering Canada (direct or via the United States), and finally "Other" travellers which consist of foreign and resident crew members, diplomats, military personnel, immigrants and former residents. The observed population is the same as the target population.

For the Leading indicator of cross-border traveller-volume, the target population is US residents entering Canada through land ports equipped with the automated Integrated Primary Inspection Line (IPIL) system in automobiles licensed in the United States, and Canadian residents returning from the United States through IPIL ports in automobiles licensed in Canada. The IPIL data exclude travellers who cross the border using a NEXUS card, those who cross through ports that are not equipped with the IPIL system and those whose crossing is recorded only on paper E-62 Entry Tally forms. They also exclude US travellers in automobiles with Canadian licence plates and Canadian travellers in automobiles with US licence plates.

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 a sample. For entry into Canada by automobile, train, bus, boat (commercial and private), plane (private) and some of the commercial plane in small airports, Statistics Canada receives administrative data from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that correspond to a complete census of travellers entering Canada.

For the following 19 airports: Gander, St-John's, Halifax, Québec City, Montréal, Mirabel, Mont-Tremblant, Ottawa, London, Toronto Terminal 1, Toronto Terminal 3, Toronto Island, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria, Statistics Canada receives (or used to receive) the E311 Declaration Cards that international travellers must complete and provide to the CBSA officers when entering Canada.

From these cards, Statistics Canada obtains the number of travellers that came through each of the airports, as well as, for the visitors to Canada, their country of residence. With the high number of cards received on a yearly basis (more than 22 million) and resource and time constraints, a sample design was developed for processing of the cards.

In March 2017, the CBSA began introducing the Primary Inspection Kiosks (PIK) in major airports across Canada. These kiosks provide an electronic means for travellers arriving by commercial air to report most of the information that is otherwise collected on E311 Declaration Cards. As of June 2018, PIK had been installed in 9 airports (Halifax, Québec City, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto T3, Toronto Island, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg) with two airports forthcoming (Toronto T1 and Calgary). For the airports where PIK has been introduced, either all of the information is provided electronically or, very few E311 declaration cards are provided to Statistics Canada. These cards correspond to travellers that were not processed through PIK.

For PIK airports, the total number of international travellers is obtained by combining the information from the PIK electronic files and the information obtained from processing the E311 cards that were sent, replacing the traditional estimates that would have been obtained by the E311 cards only. Travellers who enter Canada in these airports using a NEXUS card have not been required to complete either PIK or E311 since the initial deployment of PIK in March 2017. Nonetheless, these NEXUS travellers are still accounted for in the travel statistics.

Data sources

Data are extracted from administrative files.

For PIK airports for reference months in 2017: While awaiting receipt of PIK data, Statistics Canada prepared preliminary estimates for airports at which the PIK system had been deployed. These estimates are based on CBSA reports of total international travellers by airport, while the distribution between Canadian, American and travellers from individual overseas countries are modelled estimates based on historical data and trends, using methods similar to those used to do seasonal adjustment.

For PIK airports for reference months in 2018: As of June 2018, for the nine PIK airports, a sample of the E311 declaration cards (if applicable) is combined with the number of travellers from the PIK electronic files and NEXUS traveller counts to produce the number of travellers that came to Canada by country of residence.

For the following 7 airports mentioned previously (Gander, St-John's, Mirabel, Toronto Terminal 1, Saskatoon, Regina, and Calgary), a sample of E311 Declaration Cards is taken in order to estimate the number of travellers that came to Canada by country of residence. Starting with the October 2018 reference month, a census of E311 cards are used to enumerate travellers and tabulate their countries of residence at the following 22 smaller airports: Iqaluit, Nunavut; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Fredericton, New Brunswick; Moncton, New Brunswick; Saint John, New Brunswick; Trois-Rivières, Quebec; St. Hubert, Quebec; Rivière-Rouge/Mont-Tremblant, Quebec; Hamilton, Ontario; Kitchener, Ontario; London, Ontario; Thunder Bay, Ontario; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Greater Sudbury / Grand Sudbury, Ontario; Trenton, Ontario; Windsor Tunnel, Ontario (Airport); Nanaimo, British Columbia; Victoria, British Columbia; Huntingdon (Abbotsford Airport), British Columbia; Prince George, British Columbia; Courtenay, British Columbia; and Kelowna, British Columbia.

Starting in 2018, Statistics Canada updated its sources of data for counts of travellers entering Canada at land ports. Total counts of overseas travellers arriving by land are now based mainly on data collected from the highway component of CBSA's Integrated Primary Inspection Line (IPIL-HWY). For land ports where CBSA employs E-311 cards to record arrivals by bus or train, the E-311 cards are now used by Statistics Canada to enumerate these travellers and tabulate their trip durations and countries of residence. These sources replace other paper-based reports and historically-based imputations that had been used to arrive at these totals.

In addition, starting with the August 2018 reference month, Statistics Canada began implementing a new method for estimating the country of residence breakdowns of overseas travellers entering Canada at most land ports. Where country of residence data are not available (e.g., IPIL-HWY data), the country of residence breakdowns for air travellers in PIK data for the given province or region are used to estimate the country breakdowns of overseas land travellers at land ports. This method replaces the historically-based imputations that were used previously.

For all other Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) ports of entry, data are extracted from administrative files or captured from administrative forms provided to Statistics Canada. For these ports of entry, the information is collected on a census basis. The counts are captured from following paper tally sheets obtained from CBSA: E-62 Entry Tallies, E-62B Entry Tallies for buses, E-62T Entry Tallies specifically for trucks and E63 tally sheets for commercial and private planes and boats and their passengers and crew. In the case of the majority of land ports of entry, Statistics Canada receives monthly electronic files from CBSA's Integrated Primary Inspection Lane system (IPIL). As more ports of entry are using the IPIL system for more modes of entry, the IPIL data are gradually replacing paper forms as a source of data, thereby improving the efficiency of the program.

The data are verified and validated, and aggregates are obtained and included in the Frontier Counts System. 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.

The Frontier Counts compiles data collected about international travellers entering Canada, recorded by CBSA officials using various means. Each port of entry provides this administrative data in accordance with 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 ports. Various means of collecting Frontier Counts data are described below.

Primary Inspection Kiosks (PIK): An electronic system that has been gradually introduced at major Canadian airports since March 2017. PIK replaces the E311 Declaration Cards that international travellers to Canada are required to complete and present to airport border services officers upon their arrival in Canada. Electronic PIK data files are provided to Statistics Canada on a regular basis. Travellers who report using PIK are not required to provide an E311 declaration card. Travellers who enter Canada in these airports using a NEXUS card have not been required to complete either PIK or E311 since the initial deployment of PIK in March 2017.

E311 Declaration Card: Form used at 16 major Canadian international airports and the 22 smaller airports listed earlier to record travellers entering Canada by commercial plane, including schedule and charter arrivals. It does not include travellers whose entry is recorded using PIK, NEXUS, E63, CANPASS or 'in-person processing' by border services officers at PIK airports.

E-62 Entry Tally: Form used by ports to record the number of travellers and vehicles arriving by land and by ferry, at ports of entry on the United States-Canada border. Each form indicates the number of automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, snowmobiles and their associated travellers cleared for entry by CBSA agents, as well as the travellers coming to Canada by other modes of transport such as bus, train and on foot.

E-62 B - Bus Entry Tally: a version of the E-62 form that is used specifically for bus travellers.

E-62 T - Entry Tally for trucks: a version of the E-62 form that is used specifically for truck travellers.

E63 Commercial and Private Craft/Passenger and Crew Arrivals: Form used to record travellers entering Canada by private plane or boat. This form is also used to record travellers and crews on commercial freighters, passenger ferries, cruises and some commercial flights.

E63-1 Passenger and Crew Arrivals, Cruise Vessel: Forms completed by ports during cruise ship season.

Integrated Primary Inspection Line (IPIL): Formerly known as the Primary Automated Lookout System (PALS), IPIL has been used to count automobile traffic at land ports since 1998.

NEXUS: A program designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States.

CANPASS telephone reporting system: It records the number of travellers entering Canada by private plane or boat. The CANPASS system also allows pre-authorized travellers, as well as special permit holders, to cross the border without interaction with a CBSA's agent.

Overseas Summary Report: It is used to record the country of residency of overseas travellers who enter Canada at land and ferry ports of entry.

Error detection

There are various processes involved in the Frontier Counts system. Within each process, several edits and verifications are done.

In the data capture of paper forms such as the E-62 Tally sheets, edits are included in the data capture system to minimize errors and evaluate the data quality. For the data capture of theE63 tallies, experienced personnel first evaluate the forms received, and define if travellers included in the forms are part of the target population, before doing the data capture. In the case of E311 Declaration Cards, a process is in place to proceed with the sampling of the E311 Declaration Cards, and the capture of certain fields for the sampled cards. In all of the steps, edits are in place to minimize errors in the captured field. For instance, in the case of country of residence of travellers, a comparison is always made between the captured information and a list of valid country codes.

Finally, once the data are aggregated, comparisons to historical data, as well as comparisons to alternate source of information are done to validate the results.


When there are data missing for a traveller category for a specific port of entry, manual imputation is done. 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, including the PIK data. In the case of data obtained from the processing of the E311 declaration cards at 19 international Canadian 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

During the verification and analysis of counts for the current reference month, comparisons are made with counts from the previous month and the previous year's same reference month. Irregular fluctuations in the figures reported by ports of entry may be addressed by contacting officials of the port of entry for confirmation and explanation. 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 that could identify any person, business, 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.

In order to prevent any data disclosure, confidentiality analysis is done using the Statistics Canada Generalized Disclosure Control System (G-Confid). G-Confid is used for primary suppression (direct disclosure) as well as for secondary suppression (residual disclosure). Direct disclosure occurs when the value in a tabulation cell is composed of or dominated by few enterprises while residual disclosure occurs when confidential information can be derived indirectly by piecing together information from different sources or data series.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

The seasonal adjustments are done on seasonal components, trading day effects and moving holiday factors. Seasonally-adjusted series are calculated using Statistics Canada's X12 ARIMA program in which components of a seasonal time series are removed.

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 electronic 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.

Data accuracy

In the case of air travellers for which we use a sample of 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 the combination of E311 Declaration Cards, PIK and NEXUS at Canadian airports, coverage errors are insignificant because travellers are obligated to hand in their cards/printouts to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers. CBSA has identified that some travellers at PIK airports may bypass both PIK and E311 and make their declarations to border services officers. These declarations are not currently recorded, however CBSA estimates the total amounts to be insignificant. 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.

Response error in the data provided to CBSA occurs when a traveller misunderstands a question and reports an incorrect response. For example, in the case of air travellers, a Canadian traveller who returns to Canada from an overseas trip by way of a flight from the United States may report that they are arriving from the United States instead of 'overseas via the United States.' The degree of response error cannot be calculated.

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


Date modified: