Recommend recently traveled to Niagara Falls to attend Rendez-vous Canada (RVC), a 4-day international tourism marketplace that serves as a gateway to tourism experiences across Canada. Apart from bringing tourism professionals together to promote tourism across the country, two major announcements took place during this year’s RVC.
But before we get to that, let’s breakdown this year’s RVC success by numbers: RVC had approximately 1,600 delegates in attendance; 453 buyers from 28 countries—65 of those buyers coming from the U.S., making the U.S. the second largest market in attendance after Canada; 25 travel-trade media (Recommend being the only U.S. representative in attendance); and approximately 24,000 pre-scheduled face-to-face appointments taking place over the 4-day period.
The two major announcements made at RVC were that the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) will be targeting the U.S. market with new marketing initiatives over the next three years, and that the organization has changed its name to Destination Canada to better fit its marketing-inspired concept for business.
What does this mean for the U.S.?
Well, first the U.S. is Canada’s largest inbound market with an estimated 11.5 million overnight trips in 2014 and $7.2 billion in total spending. Though the U.S. is Canada’s most important inbound market, it currently represents less than half of Canada’s total international tourist receipts, accounting for 47 percent in 2013, which is down from 56 percent in 2005, which is the last time the numbers were up. The financial crisis impacted U.S. travel to Canada bringing overnight trips down by 20 percent and same day trips down by 50 percent. However, currently U.S. travel to Canada is once again gaining momentum with a 10 percent increase in 2014 and a 6 percent increase in arrivals during the first three months of 2015.
During RVC, Maxime Bernier, Minister of State Small Business and Tourism, spoke about the Canadian government’s commitment to promoting Canada as a premier tourism destination. He announced the additional support for tourism in their current budget, which will allow the CTC to lead a new initiative, in partnership with the tourism sector, to promote Canada to travelers from U.S. leisure markets.
“…We will put more money in the U.S. market, we will put more money as the federal government, but also all together with the provinces, with the private sector, the amount will be bigger and will be more efficient with the vision of the Destination Canada,” says Minister Bernier.
This goes along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent announcement that the CTC will receive an additional support of $30 million over the next three years for the major new marketing campaign to attract more American visitors to destinations across the country. Canada has not directly marketed to the U.S. since 2010, so the new marketing campaign will be compromised of innovative marketing methods to reach out to the U.S. traveler.
“…The importance of this announcement is that we can continue to invest a broad-based or a balanced market strategy instead of diverting some of our existing resources to the all important U.S. market,” says David Goldstein, president and CEO of Destination Canada.
“It’s not only about the new name, but about the new vision of the organization, and the new leadership of the organization. For me as the Minister in charge of tourism, it was important to have somebody at the head of Destination Canada who is coming from the private sector, and with a lot of various strong experiences in marketing, and David was the right guy,” adds Minister Bernier.
When asked about the marketing investment for this new campaign, Goldstein adds, “We are almost at a one-to-one ratio for partnership co-investment with our campaigns now. Now that we’re re-entering the U.S. leisure market, which is quite possibly the biggest connected market to the Canadian industry, we don’t foresee a problem, as long as we are putting together the right marketing platforms that are going to speak to our partners at all levels: provincial, territorial partners, industry partners, destination partners, but we have a pretty good track record in this and it’s our expectation that we’re going to more than double the federal government investment in this program in over the next three years.”
The CTC is working towards attracting the American market, who they believe have an interest in traveling across the border to Canada. Goldstein adds that, “There’s a series of pent-up demand in various parts of all the experiences across Canada where we know Americans are interested. We know this because our research tells us that there’s 15 million Americans who are actively considering a trip to Canada today. So we know they’re out there. They need an invitation, and frankly we’ve got a great birthday coming up so we might want to invite the neighbors.” (In 2016, Canada will be celebrating its 150 birthday celebration.)
How will the CTC market to U.S. travelers?
Goldstein breaks it down for us by comparing the components to the layers of a cake. The base layer is a big data strategy where Destination Canada is going to be using digital media to engage customers who are considering visiting Canada, “and then they will be fed digital media and other forms of media marketing that can be passed off to potential receptors whether it’s a hotel company or an airline.” The second layer will be its trade media campaign, “which is something we actually never left in the U.S., but it will be intensified,” says Goldstein. The next layer is to work with travel trade. “We have a very good history with the travel trade in the U.S. but that’s been dormant for a few years and we think there’s significant opportunity there,” he adds. And the top layer—the icing—will be various forms of media—some of them traditional media campaigns, but that’ll be driven by Destination Canada’s partners and where they want to go. “We have geographic ideas, we have demographic ideas, but if Ontario wants to come and pitch us an idea, or Rocky Mountaineer, or one of the airlines, we’re going to be open to those pitches to try to make sure that the campaign gets as much strategic reach as possible,” he points out.
How does the name change affect travel agents?
Destination Canada will be working on new ways to market Canada to travelers. However, agents remain at the forefront of their initiative. “Working with agents is one of the things that the Canadian Tourism Commission, now Destination Canada, has excelled at. In our partnership in training programs with agents we help them become Canada champions. It’s one thing that has become very successful for us in various markets. It’s most certainly going to be part of our outreach in the coming months and over the 3-year campaign because we know the customer pattern has changed a bit, but there’s still a great deal that goes through agents,” says Goldstein. “We conduct agent education programs in all of our markets. They’re not just a venue to bring agents on FAM tours, but they’re a significant education process that helps them understand how to sell Canada and how to put together really interesting itineraries. Part of our job is to convince the world that Canada is not cold, it’s cool. And to help them put together really interesting itineraries is something that travel agents like because it’s something fresh that they can give to their clients,” he adds.
Now, if you’re wondering where in Canada should you send your clients, well, we asked Minister Bernier and his response covered the country’s vast experiences. “It’s very different for every region of the country. I can say if you go near old Quebec, that’s a great experience, [such as] the food over there; and also if you go out west towards the Rockies. It depends what you like to do. If you like to be in the city, a vibrant city, there’s Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. If you like to be outdoors, then the Rockies and the Maritimes. What I want to do personally is go horseback riding in the Rockies. I’d like to do that one day. I don’t have time right now, but that will be an experience that personally, I would like to do.”
For more information, visit en-corporate.canada.travel.