Over 15,000 Canadians traveled to the Flanders Fields – West Flanders region of Belgium in 2017 up nearly 120% over 2016. “We knew the centennial commemorations would have an impact however, we didn’t anticipate this kind of increase over a one-year period.” said Veerle Viaene, Market coordinator for Canada with VISITFLANDERS.

Visitor statistics show that Canadian visitation to the region takes the lead over Australia as the largest ‘distant market’ for Flanders. Together with the United States and New Zealand, these four markets already had a considerable market share, but it continued to grow in 2017 (+40% versus 2016 and +18% versus 2015). The number of Canadians who visited the World War I heritage sites in 2017 more than doubled to over 15,000 visitors.

“These figures are good news for the international efforts made by VISITFLANDERS and its partners,” according to project leader Lea Winkeler. “The objectives we have set for the entire remembrance period have nearly been attained. Of course, this does not mean that we should stop now – we will maintain the momentum of the previous years, even after 2018. The Great War is part of the DNA of our tourist destination. We share this heritage with many countries and we will continue to take care of it in the future. We do so not just because of the boost visitors give to the local economy, but also and especially because of the personal and social value of the experiences sought by all these people in Flanders.”

The centennial commemorations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele were key factors in this increase in Canadian visitation and interest remains strong into the 2018 -2019 cycles as we see robust activity from tour operators and media in the region. 2017 enjoyed nearly five times the Canadian visitation in less than as many years.

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Canada 3,200 7,700 8,100 7,000 15,400

These statistics also come as VISITFLANDERS recently designated Peace Year in Canada in recognition of the centennial of the homecoming period from the Great War. In the year following the Nov. 1918 Armistice many Canadian troops were making their way back home, a period many referred to as the Peace Year.