Frontier Counts (FC)

Detailed information for October 2020





Record number:


The Frontier Counts data provide counts of entries into Canada by international travellers at Canadian ports of entry by selected categories, as well as the number of automobiles, trucks and other land vehicles entering Canada.

Data release - November 12, 2020 (Leading indicator of cross-border traveller volume); December 22, 2020 (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 program provides counts of entries into Canada by international travellers at Canadian ports of entry by mode of transportation, country of residence, type of traveller, trip duration and where the traveller arrives from, as well as counts of automobiles, trucks and other land vehicles (e.g., motorcycles, snowmobiles, bicycles) entering Canada.

Frontier Counts data are used by the Canadian System of National Accounts and Balance of Payments to produce data on commerce between Canada and other countries, and for reporting to international organizations such as the World Tourism Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The data are also used by the CBSA, Destination Canada, provincial tourism agencies, and a number of other organizations in the public and private sectors, both in Canada and in other countries. In addition, Frontier Counts data are used as benchmarks of population counts in the weighting of Statistics Canada's tourism surveys.

Reference period: Month

Collection period: During the reference month (by the CBSA), with processing done by Statistics Canada in the following 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 air, land or water. The travellers are distributed into the following flow categories: Canadian residents returning to Canada from the United States of America only, Canadian residents returning to Canada from countries other than the United States of America, United States of America residents entering Canada, residents of countries other than the United States of America entering Canada and "other" travellers, which consists 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 monthly Leading indicator of international arrivals to Canada, the target population is:

- By land: All entries into Canada by international visitors or returning visitors through land ports equipped with the automated Integrated Primary Inspection Line (IPIL) system in automobiles, motorcycles or other land vehicles (e.g., snowmobiles, bicycles) licensed in Canada or the United States of America.

The indicator excludes visitors who were recorded in a system other than IPIL (e.g., NEXUS, E-62 form), those who used a mode of transportation other than those indicated (e.g., truck, bus, on foot) and those travelling in a vehicle plated outside of Canada or the United States of America.
Note: There is a separate table released with the Leading indicator which enumerates trucks and truck drivers entering Canada.

- By air: All entries into Canada by international commercial air visitors or returning visitors who made their declaration at a Primary Inspection Kiosk (PIK).

The indicator excludes visitors who arrived at an airport where the PIK system is not installed (see Data sources section below), those who did not make their declaration at a PIK (e.g., NEXUS travellers), commercial crew members, individuals who declared the purpose of their trip as immigration to Canada and individuals who declared the purpose of their trip as work (requiring a permit).

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


For most data sources and modes of transportation, Frontier Counts data represent a census of entries into Canada. The exception is E311 declaration cards for commercial flights, for which the high volume of cards and challenges associated with capturing their data made it necessary for a strategy to be developed, whereby only a sample of the cards is processed.

The sample of cards to be processed is established according to sampling rates based on airport size and traveller type. The rates range from 5% sampled for Canadian and U.S. resident travellers at large airports to 100% (a census of cards received) for small airports. At least 50% of cards are processed for overseas resident travellers at all airport types.

For the following airports: Gander, St. John's, Mirabel, Toronto Pearson Terminal 1, Saskatoon and Regina, a sample of E311 declaration cards is taken, whereas a census of E311 cards are used to enumerate travellers and tabulate their characteristics at the following 22 smaller airports: Iqaluit, Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Saint John, Trois-Rivières, St. Hubert, Rivière-Rouge/Mont-Tremblant, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Greater Sudbury/Grand Sudbury, Trenton, Windsor, Nanaimo, Victoria, Huntingdon (Abbotsford Airport), Prince George, Courtenay (British Columbia) and Kelowna, as well as at any other small airport for which Statistics Canada receives E311 declaration cards.

Data sources

Data are extracted from various complementary administrative files and forms provided to Statistics Canada by the CBSA through a data-sharing agreement. The data sources for Frontier Counts are the following:

Primary Inspection Kiosk (PIK): An electronic system used to record travellers entering Canada by commercial plane that has been introduced gradually at major Canadian airports since March 2017 and, as of 2020, is deployed at the following airports: Halifax/Robert L. Stanfield, Québec/Jean Lesage, Montreal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier, Toronto/Lester B. Pearson Terminal 3, Toronto/Billy Bishop Toronto City, Winnipeg/James Armstrong Richardson, Edmonton International, Calgary International and Vancouver International, with a deployment at Toronto/Lester B. Pearson Terminal 1 forthcoming.

E311 Declaration Card: A form used at Canadian international airports where the PIK system is not installed or in cases where a PIK kiosk cannot be used. The form records travellers entering Canada by air, including commercial plane, and scheduled and charter arrivals. The declaration cards are also used at some ports of entry to record arrivals by bus or train.

NEXUS: An electronic system designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States. It is available for both air and land travellers.

Telephone Reporting Centre (TRC)-CANPASS: An electronic system that records the number of travellers entering Canada by private plane or private boat or who report a land crossing by phone. The system also allows pre-authorized travellers, as well as special permit holders, to cross the border without interaction with a CBSA agent.
Integrated Primary Inspection Line (IPIL): An electronic system installed at most Canadian land ports of entry, which provides information on automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles and other land vehicles crossing into Canada, as well as their associated travellers and pedestrians.

E-62 Entry Tally: A form used to record the number of travellers and vehicles arriving by land and by ferry at ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border. Each form indicates the number of automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and snowmobiles, as well as their associated travellers, cleared for entry by CBSA agents. It also includes travellers who arrive to Canada by other modes of transportation (e.g., bus, train, 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 - Truck Entry Tally: A version of the E-62 form that is used specifically for truck travellers.
E63 Commercial and Private Craft/Passenger and Crew Arrivals: A 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: A form completed by ports during cruise ship season.
Overseas Summary Report: A form used to record the country of residence of overseas travellers who enter Canada at land and ferry ports of entry.

The total number of international arrivals by air is determined by combining data from PIK, E311 declaration cards for flights, the air component of NEXUS, the air component of TRC-CANPASS and air data from any E63 forms received.
The total number of crossings at land ports of entry is determined by combining data from IPIL, the land component of NEXUS, the land component of TRC-CANPASS, E-311 declaration cards for buses and trains, E62 tallies received, and overseas summary reports received.

The total number of international arrivals by water is determined by combining data from the water component of TRC-CANPASS, and marine data from any E63 or E63-1 forms received.

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 Entry Tally and E63 form, edits are included in the data capture system to minimize errors and evaluate the data quality.

In the case of E311 declaration cards, a process is in place to proceed with the sampling and capture certain fields for the sampled cards. In all steps of the process, edits are in place to minimize errors in the fields captured. For example, 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.

There are also numerous validations and corrections done when electronic data files are processed, such as removing duplicate records, correcting invalid variable values and confirming appropriate coverage of the target population.
In all cases, communication with the CBSA is initiated to address data gaps or unexplained errors or fluctuations.


Imputation is done when data are missing for a traveller category for a specific port of entry. Historical data, auxiliary information and information obtained from comparable ports of entry can be used in the imputation process.
For cases where a data source does not contain the requisite information to separate tourists (overnight travellers) and excursionists (same-day travellers), the proportion observed in comparable auxiliary data sources is applied at the finest geographical detail possible.

Starting with the August 2018 reference month, the Frontier Counts implemented a new method for estimating the country of residence breakdowns of overseas travellers entering Canada at most land ports. When a breakdown is not available (e.g., IPIL data), if ports of entry are able to provide a separate detailed breakdown of overseas travellers by country of residence, this distribution is used. However if no such distribution is available, the country of residence breakdowns for air travellers in PIK data for the given province or region are used to estimate the country breakdowns for overseas land travellers. This method replaces the historically based imputations that were used previously.


For data sources collected and processed as a census of border crossings, there is no estimation, as the total volume is the direct sum of the data obtained.

In the case of data obtained from the processing of E311 declaration cards, 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 to the total number of travellers reported on each card to estimate the total volume. The variance is calculated directly.

In March and April 2017, because of quality issues with preliminary PIK files, data for Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier and Vancouver International were estimated based on CBSA reports of total international travellers by airport, while the distribution between Canadian travellers, U.S. travellers and travellers from individual overseas countries are modelled estimates based on historical data and trends.

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 counts 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. Disclosure control measures are applied to any Frontier Counts data points that are not permitted to be released.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Data from previous months are revised occasionally, in cases where new information becomes available or a significant change in methodology is required. Any revisions to previously released data are communicated to users in the accompanying release.

Seasonal adjustment identifies, estimates and removes the systematic seasonal and calendar effects from the original series. Examples of calendar effects are the trading-day and moving-holiday effects. The seasonally adjusted data allow for more meaningful comparisons of economic conditions at different times, for example, in the current versus previous month. Seasonally adjusted series are calculated using the X-12-ARIMA methodology.

Seasonally adjusted data are revised following a pre-determined revision strategy. Each month, at least three months prior to the reference month are revised. Once a year, at least three years prior to the year studied are revised when historical updates are applied to the raw data.

Data accuracy

In the case of air travellers—for which a sample of E311 declaration cards is used—the coefficients of variation of the estimates vary from less than 1% to 5%.

Coverage errors are not calculated but are considered to be low. The 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, which are filled out by CBSA officers, are not currently recorded in the Frontier Counts. However, the CBSA estimates the total amounts to be insignificant. Gaps in coverage of land and water crossings are also considered to be very low, as arrivals are recorded in either one of the electronic CBSA systems or on a paper form by a CBSA border agent. Travellers reporting to the TRC or using CANPASS are also captured through the TRC-CANPASS data system.

Response error in the data provided to the 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.


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