We employ over 600,000 people in every riding across the country, including over 204,000 Canadians aged 25 and under, making our sector the largest employer of young Canadians.
Generating $17.4 billion last year in international currency exchange from international visitors, travel is Canada's largest service export sector. Travel and tourism is a vibrant industry, operating in every riding across Canada. According to the Conference Board of Canada reports, travel and tourism was one of the most resilient industries during the recession, with relatively few bankruptcies or job losses.
The industry is by no means in dire straits but is in need of course correction to seize growth opportunities for today and to ensure our sustainability for the future.
Receipts were up over 7% last year, out-pacing the Canadian economy, but this masked a very disturbing overreliance on our Canadian domestic market. Currently, 80% of travel revenue is derived from Canadians travelling within Canada, and that's up from 65% just a decade ago. Furthermore, our overreliance on the domestic market is at risk as Brand USA and other countries' tourism marketing boards are significantly increasing their marketing investment to lure the Canadian traveller abroad.
The good news is that the global opportunity is enormous. Travel and tourism is out-pacing nearly every other sector of the global economy, but Canada is lagging behind. Last year, Canada's inbound visitor growth was only 1.7%, less than half the global average of 4%. Simply keeping pace with the global growth of 4% is effectively the Canadian virtue of shooting for bronze. It would add half a billion dollars to our economy and over $150 million to government revenues.
In order to get to the 4% international average, Canada needs a balanced strategy that focuses on the higher-volume mature markets, primarily the U.S. and Western Europe, and the high-growth emerging markets such as China, India, Mexico, and Brazil. Given time, these emerging markets will mature and deliver significant returns, but at present, emerging market growth continues to be impeded by structural barriers like visa requirements, aviation cost structure, and air access issues.
TIAC is working within the federal tourism strategy to resolve the policy barriers restricting growth in these emerging markets, but at the end of the day none of these markets will surpass the U.S. market.
To that end, we believe that we are presenting a partnering opportunity for the government and industry to grow traditional markets where we have visa exemption and where we have available airlift. Central to this will be creating an opportunity to re-engage the U.S. market—a renewed national brand campaign.
Since 2002, Canada has lost almost 3.5 million overnight visits annually from the U.S. Many of the structural barriers facing the U.S. market have been overcome or minimized. Our currency is stabilizing below par; U.S. passport ownership has doubled. Now it's sitting at over 120 million passport holders. The border is thinning, and we have open air links to major American centres. The American economy is rebounding, and U.S. outbound travel is up over 6%, of which we only received 2.5% last year.
Americans continue to travel as their economy recovers. Outbound travel is more likely to grow to Canada, but we must step forward to seize at least our fair share of that lucrative opportunity.
Unfortunately, our resources to extend the Canada brand through the Canadian Tourism Commission are spread too thinly across key markets, and cuts to the CTC have forced the withdrawal of the Canada brand in the U.S. market. In response, TIAC is proposing a new, strategically aligned, fully-matched CTC-led marketing plan of co-investment with the federal government. Called Connecting America, it is aimed at U.S. leisure travel.
This proposed three-year pilot would create a $35-million federal co-investment plan, with matching funds from the tourism sector. It would be aimed at U.S.-Canadian markets that have direct or air-ground access.
A joint investment in Connecting America will produce dividends immediately. CTC projections estimate that with a first-year loan, we can attract 440,000 more Americans, who will spend approximately $250 million. This will include over 150 million hotel-room nights, driving $300 million in incremental government revenue.
Over the three-year pilot, the campaign will drive 2.65 million visitors, an estimated $1.5 billion in incremental tourism spending. That is why today we are hoping for one key recommendation from the committee. Our hope is that the committee will broadly recommend federal marketing investment to allow the Canadian Tourism Commission and our partners to forcefully drive the Canadian brand back into the U.S. market. More specifically, we believe that the Connecting America co-investment campaign is the right mechanism.
In conclusion, it should be noted that in 2002 Canada ranked seventh in the world in inbound visitation. In 2012, we ranked 16th. We believe that breaking down barriers and aggressively promoting the Canada brand internationally will allow us to surpass the international average of 4% visitor growth and enable Canada to get back into the top 10 by 2017.
We have provided additional information for members of the committee and we look forward to your questions.