Origins of Tourism in Canada Timeline

This is an accessible copy of the Origins of Tourism in Canada timeline H5P activity provided in Chapter 1.3 Canada Overview.

Origins of Tourism in Canada

Understanding the factors influecing the development of tourism in Canada through time.

  • 1534: Explorers of the day, such as Jacques Cartier, were some of the first tourists to what is now called Canada.
  • 1836:  The first railway was launched.
  • 1885: Banff was established as Canada’s first national park.
  • 1892: Early tourism promotion.
    As early as 1892, enterprising Canadians like the Brewsters became the country’s first tour operators, leading guests through areas such as Banff National Park (Brewster Travel Canada, 2014). Communities across Canada developed their own marketing strategies as transportation development took hold. For instance, the town of Maisonneuve in Quebec launched a campaign from 1907 to 1915 calling itself “Le Pittsburg du Canada.” By 1935, Quebec was spending $250,000 promoting tourism. Other provinces such as Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia followed suit, also enjoying the benefits of establishing provincial tourism bureaus (Dawson, 2004).
  • 1911: The Dominion Parks Branch is created.
    The Dominion Forest Reserves and Parks Act created the Dominion Parks Branch, the first of its kind in the world (Shoalts, 2011).
  • 1914-1960: The Railway Age.
    By the onset of World War I in 1914, four railways dominated the Canadian landscape:Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), Canadian Northern Railway (CNOR), the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR), and the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP). Unfortunately, their rapid expansion soon brought the last three into near bankruptcy (Library and Archives Canada, n.d.). In 1923, these three rail companies were amalgamated into the Canadian National Railway (CNR), and together with the CPR, these trans-continentals dominated the Canadian travel landscape until other forms of transportation became more popular.
  • 1937: Air Canada was formed.
    Our national airline, Air Canada, was formed in as Trans-Canada Air Lines.
  • 1950-1960: Increased mass travel.
    Through the 1950s and 1960s, reduced airfares saw increased mass travel. Competitors including Canadian Pacific (which became Canadian Airlines in 1987) began to launch international flights during this time to Australia, Japan, and South America (Canadian Geographic, 2000).
  • 1962: Trans-Canada Highway officially opens.
    It would take decades before a coast-to-coast highway was created, with the Trans-Canada Highway officially opening in Revelstoke in 1962. When it was fully completed in 1970, it was the longest national highway in the world, spanning one-fifth of the globe (MacEachern, 2012).
  • 1970: The National Park System Plan divided Canada into 39 regions.
  • 1978: The popularity of car travel was partially to blame for the decline in rail travel.
    In 1978, with declining interest in rail travel, the CPR and CNR were forced to combine their passenger services to form VIA Rail (Library and Archives Canada, n.d.).The rising popularity of car travel was partially to blame for the decline in rail travel, although it took time to develop.
  • 1987: Canada’s first marine conservation areas created.
  • 2000-2002: Air Canada was facing financial peril and forced to restructure.
    A numbered company, owned in part by Air Canada, purchased 82% of Canadian Airline’s shares, with the result of Air Canada becoming the country’s only national airline (Canadian Geographic, 2000). The 2000s saw Air Canada experiencing a roller-coaster performance from verging near bankruptcy in 2002
  • 2013-2017: Air Canada transforms.
    Air Canada experienced a number of transformations from interior and interior aircraft redesigns and further fleet upgrades
  • 2019: Air Canada takes over Air Tansat.
    Once a rival airline, Air Transat was subsequently taken over by Air Canada.
  • 2020 (March): COVID causes an almost complete shut down.
    Tourism was placed in a standstill as global travel restrictions were imposed to prevent the spread of infection. Aggravated with a nose dive of consumer confidence in travel, many tourism businesses and operators big and small were forced to close.


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Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC - 2nd Edition Copyright © 2015, 2020, 2021 by Morgan Westcott and Wendy Anderson, Eds is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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