Thursday, November 22

Revisit how you approach the youth market

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Martin Cash of the Winnipeg Free Press writes: "The first clue that you're not cool is when you try to tell young prospective customers that you or your product is cool," and "The next clue is when you try to figure out what's not cool about it."

Cash's article (October 12, 2007; Don't say it's cool; ask them) refers to an address by Doyle Buehler, founder of Winnipeg's myTEGO Inc, given at a meeting of the Advertising Association of Winnipeg. He says many companies have to throw out what they thought they knew about

marketing and go for an emotional approach: "You have to immerse yourself in the youth culture. Get them to describe your product or your service. Listen to what they have to say about your company." Buehler stresses that young people are not impressed by who you are or where you're coming from; they care about how your product will affect them.

Orbitz Food & Wine Index says 'cheers!' to Okanagan and Niagara

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The 2007 Orbitz Food & Wine Index has listed Niagara and the Okanagan as "possible future top destinations and drive-to regions north of the US border."

Released last month, the index recommends Osoyoos and Penticton as must-see regions out west, while out east Niagara-on-the-Lake tops the charts. Orbitz tended toward words like "nestled" and "quaint" to describe both regions and touted both the cuisine and the cultural draw of each destination.

Asked how they compile the annual index, Orbitz's Jim Cohn said the company looks at historical data and future bookings to decide which destinations deserve a lift of your glass. "We do a year-over-year comparison to figure the growth percentage. From 2005-2007, both Niagara and the Okanagan demonstrated significant growth."

Cohn also pointed out that Orbitz's team of in-house travel experts weighed in on the index. They consider facts such as destination accessibility and variety of accommodation before deciding which regions "toast the most."

Monday, November 19

American travellers say price trumps being green

(Originally published in TOURISM)

In a recent TravelMole report, David Wilkening writes that Americans are still not willing to pay higher prices for suppliers showing environmental concerns, according to the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and Y Partnership. However, a recent survey found they are leaning more in that direction.

"More than half of all US adults say they would be more likely to select an airline, rental car or hotel that uses more environmentally friendly products and processes, according to the latest travelhorizons survey. But while more than half of US adults may be advocates of environmental responsibility, only 14% of respondents said their actual selection of a travel service supplier would be influenced by that supplier's efforts to preserve and protect the environment."

The survey found that just 13% would be willing to pay higher rates or fares to use suppliers who demonstrate environmental responsibility, while 56% said they might do so. "The amount of the rate or fare premium appears to be the source of their hesitation," concludes the survey.

"The results of the survey suggest that awareness of a travel service supplier's efforts to operate in an environmentally responsible manner may be sufficient to attract additional patronage, but not at a significantly higher fare or rate," said Suzanne Cook, TIA's senior vice president of research. She added: "The 'value assessment' consumers ascribe to any travel service transaction appears to remain the primary determinant of their actual purchase behavior."

Get 'em while they're young

(Originally published in TOURISM)

World Youth Student and Exchange (WYSE) director general David Jones says young travellers of today are the trendsetters of tomorrow.

Quoted by Joachim Fischer in eTurboNews, Jones comments, "we have an opportunity to enrich the value of their travel experiences and promote responsible and sustainable travel habits."

The WYSE met this year in Istanbul for the World Youth and Student Exchange Travel Conference to share market and Industry knowledge, strengthen long-term business relationships, and plan for the future, and network with peers. With a network of over 5,000 locations in 118 countries, WYSE members provide international travel and educational experience for more than 10 million youth and students each year.

According to the eTurboNews article, WYSE unveiled its forecast for this niche market drawiong on survey responses from more than 8,500 young travelers. The study revealed that young independent travelers today average more than seven trips in their lifetime, spending an average of 1,915 euros. The average spending rose to 40% percent since the first research in 2002.

The study also revealed that youth travelers use the internet to book their trips (surged from 10 percent in 2002 to 50 percent in 2007), and that 80 percent use the internet to search for information about their trips.

For young people travel is a way of life, the study revealed. "Very few are deterred by terrorism, natural disasters or epidemics." Australia, the United States and France are the most popular destinations for young travelers, while Thailand, New Zealand and Australia are the most popular destinations for backpackers.

Sunday, November 18

Affluent travellers most likely to return

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Travelmole's David Wilkening reports that, according to a survey conducted for the U. S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), travellers with higher disposable incomes are the most likely to return to a favoured destination.

"People imagine high-income travellers jetting around the world, sailing the Amazon, visiting Rome this year, Rio the next, following a safari with a sailing trip along the Turkish coast, or taking an extended cruise," the study says. However, the survey findings defy expectations in that one-third of travellers with household incomes greater than $100,000 indicated they preferred to revisit favorite vacation destinations.

"That is the largest group giving this response in any income category," said Bob Whitley, USTOA president.The survey identified a correlation between increased income and the desire to return to favorite vacation spots. Thirty percent of households earning $50,000 to $99,000 also preferred returning to favorite destinations, but that number dropped to less than 20% for those earning $35,000 and less. "Higher-income travellers also said they enjoy exploring a favorite destination in depth, and a broader selection of side trips would motivate them to select a tour or vacation package," Wilkening's story points out.

Women, and those with lower incomes, based their vacation choices on practical factors, saying that additional meals and sightseeing included in the price would motivate them to select packaged travel. As a case in point, younger travellers (18-34) and families with children under 12 years said free hotel room upgrades were motivating factors, according to the survey.

Managing on the heels of crisis: tourism stakeholders move on after tragedy

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Ten years ago, a bus transporting 48 passengers came down the big hill at Les Éboulements in Québec's Charlevoix region. Forty-four people (mostly members of a seniors' club) lost their lives on Thanksgiving Day in 1997 when their vehicle crashed into a ravine. In a recent report published by Québec daily Le Soleil, Sylvain Desmeules describes how 10 years later, this picturesque community which relies on tourism is trying to move on.

This was the deadliest road accident in Canada. It deeply affected not only the local population, but also the tourism industry. Before October 13 1997, group tours accounted for 50% of visitors to nearby Isle-aux-Coudres on the St. Lawrence River, welcoming 800 motorcoaches annually. Today, Desmeules writes, a good year brings in about 400 coaches.

He quotes president of the Société des établissements touristiques de l'Isle-aux-Coudres Pierre Mazière: "The accident on the hill has only heightened the current heavy trend towards a decrease in motorcoach travel."

Desmeules also talked with Éric Fournier who used to run the Charlevoix tourism association. He remembers the panic triggered by the tragedy:

"We were just recovering from Saguenay flood of 1996, and all of a sudden, new negative perceptions about the state of our roads emerged." He recalls there was a wave of booking cancellations. Government authorities went ahead with a controversial road modification plan to alleviate further risks (in that instance a breaking system malfunction was eventually identified as the culprit). Mazière estimates that if the hill roadway hadn't been rebuilt, many businesses would have closed.

For the motorcoach industry, notes Desmeules in his article, it was a wake-up call. Explains Romain Girard of the Association des propriétaires d'autobus du Québec: "We suddenly became aware of just how precious and important the safety factor is in our industry. We have undertaken an in-depth reform focusing as much around safety as on recruitment of new clients."

Desmeules notes there has been a significant recovery since. It is estimated that group travel is a $1.3 billion market for Quebec, a third of whom are Quebeckers travelling within their own province, as were the passengers from the Beauce region who had boarded the ill-fated charter 10 years ago.

Saturday, November 17

Women swap the everyday for the getaway

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Whether a Miss, Mrs. or Ms, the keyword when it comes to travel is "more". Lots more.

According to statistics from the US market, women took 32 million trips last year. Speaking even more strongly to the economic clout women carry, researchers estimate that next year women will spend 125 billion USD on travel. On top of that, the potential of the female travel market is suspected to be more than $19 trillion.

Women of all ages and in all stages in life - single, married, divorced and widowed - are jumping on the bon voyage bandwagon. And they are not weaving across continents simply to sit back, relax and chat: 75% of cultural and adventure-trip takers are women. The average adventure traveller age? A fabulous 47.

Women are also travelling even if it means leaving someone special back home. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that of 500 female travellers surveyed in 2003 by Women Traveling Together (a Maryland-based tour operator), almost two-thirds left behind husbands or boyfriends within the previous year to join an all-women tour.

Even those who ultimately choose to travel alone are encouraged by an industry that now caters to gender-specific concerns. Some hotels, such as Dubai's Jumeirah Emirates Tower and Durban, South Africa's Royal Hotel are among the international accommodations that feature women-only floors.

Out-of-country students are a growth market

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The number of tertiary students enrolled outside their country of citizenship has grown from 0.61 million worldwide in 1975 to 2.73 million in 2005, mirroring the growing globalization of economies and societies, according to a report issued by the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and quoted in Travel Impact Newswire on September 27, 2007.

The report says that freely circulating capital, goods and services - along with greater openness of labour markets - have increased the demand for new kinds of education in OECD countries. Higher education is playing an important role in broadening the horizons of students and allowing them to better understand the multiplicity of languages, cultures and business methods in the world. Several OECD governments - especially in the European Union (EU) countries - have set up student mobility schemes to foster intercultural contacts and build social networks for the future.

The report says that other driving factors include decreasing transportation costs, the spread of new technologies, and faster, cheaper communication which have resulted in a growing interdependence of economies and societies in the 1980s and even more so in the 1990s. This tendency was particularly strong in the high technology sector and labour market.

In 2005, the US received 22% of the total of all foreign students worldwide, followed by the UK (12%), Germany (10%) and France (9%). Altogether, these four major destinations account for 52% of all tertiary students pursuing their studies abroad. Significant numbers of foreign students were enrolled in Australia (6%), Japan (5%), Canada (3%), New Zealand (3%) and the partner economy the Russian Federation (3%).

Asian students form the largest group of international students enrolled in countries reporting data to the OECD or the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, followed by Europeans (24.9%), in particular citizens of the European Union (16.9%). Students from Africa account for 11.0% of all international students, while those from North America account for only 3.7%; students from South America represent 5.7% of the total.

Friday, November 16

Canada presents new image at WTM

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) will present itself in a new light at this year's World Travel Market (WTM), with a revamped display representing the CTC's new brand identity. Québec City Tourism and Tourisme Quebec are among the exhibitors who will be in attendance in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Québec City.

Maggie Davison, UK managing director of the CTC, says, "we are looking forward to WTM this year with our new corner position for the Canada stand. Our 27 participants have so much to tell the world about Canada's innovative, diverse and authentic travel experiences."

Last year more than 18 million people travelled to Canada from all over the world, over 866,000 of whom came from the UK. The first half of 2007 saw travel between Britain and Canada rise by 4.5%, compared to the same period last year.

Travel for the disabled on the rise

(Originally published in TOURISM)

An International Conference on Accessible Tourism to be held in Bangkok in November will highlight the need for improved facilities and services for a growing but still largely neglected market segment - people with disabilities. According to a report in Travel Impact Newswire (October 17, 2007), Scott Rains, one of the conference organisers and publisher of the Rolling Rains Report (a newsletter on travel for people with disabilities) says, "With a generation of permanently disabled people having experienced increasing degrees of employment, education, and leisure, those of us with the means to travel belong to a consumer group that is only starting to be noticed."

Rains says the conference will contribute to processes of change and development lines of tourism businesses to ensure a favorable environment for attracting tourists and travelers with disabilities and retired, ageing people, including access to built environments and public transport as well as training and employment.

In the Travel Impact Newswire article, Rains cited research information including the following:

* American adults with disabilities or reduced mobility currently spend an average of US$ 13.6 billion a year on tourism. In 2002, these individuals made 32 million trips and spent US$ 4.2 billion on hotels, US$ 3.3 billion on airline tickets, US$ 2.7 billion on food and beverages, and US$ 3.4 billion on trade, transportation, and other activities.

* Out of a total of 21 million persons, 69% had travelled at least once in the previous two years, including 3.9 million business trips, 20 million tourist trips, and 4.4 million business/tourist trips. In the previous 2 years, out of a total of 2 million adults with disabilities or reduced mobility, 7% had spent more than US$ 1,600 outside the continental United States. In addition, 20% had travelled at least 6 times every 2 years.

* In the United Kingdom, the Employers' Forum on Disability estimated 10 million adults with disabilities or reduced mobility in the UK, with an annual purchasing power of 80 billion pounds sterling.

* The Canadian Conference Board reported that in 2001, the combined annual disposable income of economically active Canadians with disabilities or reduced mobility was 25 billion Canadian dollars.

The conference website is at http://www.dpiap.org

Thursday, November 15

Small business dealing well with current challenges

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Jean-Rene Halde, president and CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada, says smaller companies tend to face the same challenges as larger ones, whether it be the strong dollar or domestic labour shortages, and so far it appears that, as a group, they've been dealing with those challenges. Halde was quoted October 16, 2007 in an article by Eric Beauchesne of CanWestNews Service, in which he points out this sector is innovative and agile, important because they make up the vast majority of businesses in Canada.

"We're a nation of basically, small and medium-sized businesses," he said in the CanWest article, noting that of the one million businesses with at least one employee in Canada, 97.7 per cent are small firms with less than 100 employees, and two per cent are medium-sized businesses with between 100 and 500. Halde is optimistic they will continue to meet the challenges as long as they don't get blindsided by the unexpected.

Interestingly, Halde thinks the biggest challenges facing small and medium-size firms are ones which have been around longer: labour shortages (which are especially acute in western Canada) and the strong dollar, which has been particularly challenging for smaller manufacturers who export to the US. "If you happen to an exporter, even a smaller one, obviously the rise in the loonie has been a problem," he said. "The rate at which the Canadian dollar has gone up, has made it tough to adjust."

Tourism is considered an export industry, although the sector is not directly identified in the CanWestNews report, which was published in the Vancouver Sun here.

Alberta tourism industry grows despite decrease in American visitors

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Alberta Index reports that Alberta's tourism industry had a strong summer, with hotel occupancy and event attendance comparable or slightly better than last year. "According to the Post-Summer 2007 Alberta Tourism Operator Survey, Albertans and other Canadians continued to make up the largest segment of visitors to attractions in the province this past summer."

The number of visitors from the US was down, said tourism operators. "However, recent data from Statistics Canada shows the growth of US visitors arriving directly to Canada via Alberta ports of entry (during the first seven months of 2007 compared with 2006) is greater than the national average."

Visits from the UK, Central Europe and Australia remained strong this summer while visits from Asia were slightly above or on par with 2006 results, according to the publication.

"Campgrounds, RV parks and adventure operators experienced an increase in visitors and revenue, which many operators have attributed to the increase in regional traffic within the province."

Ninety-three tourism operators from across Alberta, Eastern Canada and the US responded to the survey, conducted last month. Tourism is a $5-billion industry in Alberta and employs more than 103,000 people.

Wednesday, November 14

Dollar parity an opportunity for Canada to reposition itself to US MC&IT travellers

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Multi-million dollar expansion is the name of the game this year for meeting space in Canada. Casino Windsor in Ontario, soon to be known as Caesars Windsor, is currently undergoing a $373 million expansion and renovation that will see it gain 100,000 square feet of convention space. Northward, the Toronto Congress Centre is adding 500,000 square feet, and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, in turn, is constructing a conference centre with more than 58,000 square feet of ballroom space.

On the west coast, the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion project is expected to triple the centre's current capacity. The project's website notes that "the expansion will increase the number of delegate days each year from the current 150,000 to nearly 370,000 within the first five years after opening. On average, a delegate will spend about $350 per day during their visit to Vancouver, with about one-third of convention delegates traveling to other parts of the province as part of their stay."

Even in light of the strong Canadian dollar? "The parity is definitely affecting our value perception. But when compared to other destinations like Europe, we're still extremely competitive. And the high demand and pricing for US destinations position us as value alternative," said the Canadian Tourism Commission's (CTC) Dan Melesurgo, executive director of meetings & incentive travel sales.

Melesurgo added that today's economics in fact give Canada an opportunity to "change the way we sell - in the past we relied too much on the dollar value versus the true value of the destination: quality service and facilities and proximity of urban and outdoors activities, among other things."

"When groups do meet in Canada they usually have record attendance, which speaks to the overall appeal of our destinations. Canada's state of the art facilities, high service levels, diverse destinations, and distinctive niche product experiences also continue to make us attractive to the US market."

And the seniors will inherit the earth...

A flock of pelicans enjoy the late summer Wascana Lake habitat in Regina
Photo: Claude-Jean Harel
(Originally published in TOURISM)

Dr. Peter Tarlow suggests that from a tourism perspective, the burgeoning seniors' market is really three markets: young seniors, middle seniors, and older seniors. Tarlow, a well known speaker on tourism marketing and the author of Tourism Tidbits e-newsletter, crisis management and security, was quoted in Destination World.

Tarlow says young seniors are people born between the years 1946 - 1960, and have added expendable income, fewer home responsibilities, and relatively good health. They are prime candidates to travel. The middle senior market (born between 1930-1946), or pre baby-boomers, spend a greater amount of time visiting family and friends, have slightly higher medical costs, but still desire to travel. The old seniors are those people born before 1930, are less likely to travel, and when they do travel often seek both security and personalized service.

Tarlow points out that - as is the case in much of the developed world - the 'young senior market' is the largest and wealthiest niche market in the US, comprising some 78 million people. He suggests that over the next 9 years their number will grow 3.5% annually, and that these people also are expected to inherit a great deal of money: by the year 2015 American seniors will have inherited approximately US$ 340 billion dollars.

Senior citizens now live longer than their parents did and they tend to be more active and travel more says Tarlow: "By 2015 they will control a large percentage of the world's assets and will have a tendency to both spend more and to demand more. Seniors are not only the developed world's wealthiest group; they are also its most demanding. The parents of today's upcoming senior citizens tended to spoil them as children, which means that senior citizens are not afraid to demand what they want and will complain until they get it, especially the younger seniors who lived through an era of political activism.

Those organizations, businesses and institutions that provide good customer service have a great opportunity to thrive, he emphasizes, suggesting those that do not may face economic destruction and multiple lawsuits.

The full article is available here

Tuesday, November 13

Nunavut Tourism needs marketing dollars

(Originally published in TOURISM)

In an article published in Nunavut' Nunatsiaq News, John Thompson writes that Nunavut Tourism admits the territory could catch many more tourist dollars, if only it did a better job advertising itself to the world. "This is the biggest industry in the world," said Jillian Dickens, a marketing officer with Nunavut Tourism. "To get a piece of it, we need to invest, seriously."

The tourism agency, which is largely funded by the Government of Nunavut, receives slightly more than $2 million each year. Of that, $750,000 is spent on marketing. Nunavut Tourism would like to see its budget increase by $3 million to help compete against rival jurisdictions. Even if the agency received the funding boost, it would still only have half the budget of its counterpart in the Northwest Territories, according to Thompson.

"The pitch will likely be a hard sell to the Government of Nunavut, which often hears complaints that there's not enough money for basic services in the territory, such as education and health care," writes Thompson. "But Dickens says a big marketing campaign would pay for itself with the money spent in the territory by growing numbers of visitors." She points to Colorado, which recently boosted the amount spent on tourism marketing, and saw a big spike of sales at local businesses.

"But Colorado is not Nunavut," continues Thompson. "And many of the territory's small business operators may not be ready for a big influx of tourists, and the quality of service these visitors often expect. Boat guides may be away from the phone for weeks at a time, and have no answering machine. Or they may not show up at the scheduled time," writes Thompson.

"Hotels in smaller communities may have run-down rooms, leaky water works and infrequent kitchen service. Restaurants, even in Iqaluit, may offer sluggish service, leaving customers waiting for 15 minutes or longer to be served. There are quality businesses in the territory, to be sure, but tourists may have trouble discerning which ones to trust."

Nunavut Tourism tries to steer potential customers to reliable businesses in the territory, but not all businesses listed on their web site meet basic standards tourists may expect, Dickens suggests.

Thompson adds: "There's also an absence of basic infrastructure, such as docks and small harbours, which would help elderly tourists aboard cruise ships visit communities, without having to crawl over slippery rock breakwaters. A pessimist may suggest luring too many tourists too soon may actually hurt Nunavut's ability to foster a tourism industry. But Dickens says it's the other way around: bring the tourists, and the quality of service will follow."

Nunavut Tourism has worked in other small ways to make the territory more appealing to tourists, according to the article. Exit surveys answered by tourists in 2006 showed one of the biggest complaints was the amount of visible garbage in communities. "To fix this eyesore in Iqaluit," Thompson writes, "Nunavut Tourism has worked with high school students to pick up litter throughout the year. And, in early October, garbage cans were installed around Iqaluit, thanks to a joint project by Nunavut Tourism and the City of Iqaluit."

An exit survey reports Nunavut received about 10,000 visitors from June to October 2006. From that number, Nunavut Tourism estimates the territory received 19,000 visitors during the whole year; half of those visitors come for business and one third come for leisure or vacation. The rest come to visit friends or family or for education purposes.

Most visitors of Nunavut are at least 50 years of age. They're financially well-off and well-travelled. Most come from southern Canada, especially Ontario. There is also a substantial number of visitors from the US, France and the UK.

In all, these visitors spent $26 million in Nunavut.

New Brunswick tourism feels impact of strong Canadian dollar

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Radio-Canada reports that the strength of the Canadian dollar is having a negative impact on the New Brunswick tourism industry, where the number of American tourists has dropped 2.6% since the beginning of 2007.

The industry hopes to make up for the loss by luring more visitors from Ontario and Quebec: "We need to gain a greater understanding of what appeals to Quebeckers besides beaches, in order to acquire a larger share of that market," deputy minister of tourism Ronald Durelle told Radio-Canada.

Ten years ago, the Village historique acadien drew 125,000 visitors annually, but only 65,000 people took in the attraction this year. 2008 could prove to be another challenging year for tourism in the province, because of the anticipated popularity of Québec's 400th anniversary celebrations. However, notes Radio-Canada, New Brunswick may look forward to being in the spotlight again in 2009, when the province hosts the 4th Congrès mondial acadien throughout the Acadian Peninsula.

Monday, November 12

Students are spending more while travelling

A fall afternoon on Mount St-Hilaire, Quebec
Photo: Claude-Jean Harel

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Travelmole's David Wilkening reports that a new survey shows the average spent by young people on a trip abroad is now $2,600, a 39% rise since 2002. That's an 8% growth, which is more than inflation and slightly higher than the growth in travel expenditures across the population, says the World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation (WYSE).

"Overall, the global youth travel market will be worth US$154 billion this year," the group says. The report also shows young travellers are early adopters of new travel technology, with more than 80% now using the internet to search for information before departing on their trip, up from 70% in 2002.

When asked what were the most valuable features of travel websites, respondents noted the ability to compare prices and the availability of information about destinations, both of which were cited by over 80%. Less than 60% identified the ability to book their entire trip on the same website or the ability to save their enquiry on the site as valuable.

Gaspé has high hopes for the cruise sector

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Radio-Canada reports that by 2010, the town of Gaspé hopes to welcome cruise ships with a capacity of between 1500 and 3000 passengers. The ships currently making Gaspé a port of call rarely carry more that 400 to 500 passengers.

The Gaspé region harbours a number of potential draws for tourists who go on cruises, according to the executive director of Gaspé's visitors and conventions bureau Stéphane Sainte-Croix: "Our national parks are major assets in our tourism offering, as is the presence of the Port of Gaspé, which is open year-round and provides berthing space for sizeable ships."

The report mentions how the quality of port infrastructure could be a determinant in Tourisme Québec's upcoming choice of ports of call for the province. The intent, according to Gaspé Chamber of Commerce director Julie Bouffard, "is to be able to provide a variety of suitable programs, towns and ports that are market-ready for the cruise sector."

Canadian hotel construction booms

(Originally published in TOURISM)

An astounding 2000 more hotel rooms are being created in Montréal over the next two years. Two international hotel companies, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood Hotel's, are investing $100 million dollar each into their respective properties, and another big spend on property is an $80 million dollar investment in the Crystal de la Montagne, located in the heart of Montréal's downtown shopping area, according to an article published in eTurboNews. The report says the project with the biggest budget is the $400-million redevelopment project for Montréal's historic former Viger Station Hotel.

The article states that a brand new concept for cheap-chic hotels, offering affordable accommodation without compromising on design and comfort, has been introduced in Montréal by ALT Hotels; in addition to the leisure market, ALT Hotels will also target business, meetings and convention market. To serve this clientele, the hotel will have more than 5,000 square feet of space for business meetings including a main conference room located on the top floor, with breath-taking views of Montreal.

The luxury-hotel boom is well underway with close to 1,000 luxury hotel rooms opening up across Toronto. In August 2007, Toronto saw the opening of The Hazelton Hotel, the first five-star hotel in the city. According to eTurboNews, by 2010 Toronto will have four new 5-star hotels with major players such as Trump, the Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Shangri-La. And, existing hotels have stepped it up a notch by undergoing extensive refurbishments in 2007.

Luxury boutique hotels are also opening up in Canada, with properties like the Montréal Buddha Bar Hotel which will have 106 rooms and will be located in the former building of the Provincial Bank. In Vancouver, the Melville area is fast becoming a hotbed of upscale boutique hotels, including the 127-room Ritz-Carlton, the 77-room Loden Vancouver, the Shangri-La Hotel, and the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel will be a four-star hotel offering a range of accommodation for business and leisure travellers.

Wi-Fi hotspots keep growing

(Originally published in TOURISM)

ITworldcanada.com reports that a recent report from research firm In-Stat suggests Wi-Fi use is on the rise due to the proliferation of hotspots. The data are mixed however, according to an article by Tim Wilson, in that some areas are a lot hotter than others.

"People use Wi-Fi in hotels, airports, and cafes," says Daryl Schoolar, senior analyst at In-Stat and the author of the report. "You don't have a lot of people using Wi-Fi outdoors." Schoolar says this is one of the reasons why municipal Wi-Fi networks have struggled: the blanket access model doesn't reflect usage.

Canada fertile ground for voluntourism

A group of vocational agriculture students from Belgium on a study tour in Saskatchewan: it goes both ways

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Though Canada is often called an "incubator" for voluntourists - we produce great ones and they go abroad - Canada is also fertile ground (literally speaking) for voluntourism.

Voluntouring - a vacation experience wherein travellers give a portion (or all) of their travel time to a volunteer project or cause - has existed in one form or another for quite a few years. But, ecotourism and "eco-friendliness", other hot contemporary buzzwords, might be propelling the trend to greater popularity than ever before.

Given our vast geography and natural beauty, Canada is an especially fitting choice for environmentally-friendly and altruistic globe-trotters. On top of that, a voluntour vacation is a unique way for Canadian tour operators to re-brand existing assets. Take, for instance, the tried and true nature hike. Add the opportunity for travellers to restore the hiking trail, and voilà: you have both a new eco-friendly product and the ability to reach a new consumer segment.

Here's a sampling of the voluntours Canada currently has on offer:

Organizer Earthwatch Institute offers travellers the chance to help researchers track and map whales off the shorelines of the Great Bear Rainforest.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) aims to teach travellers about organic farming. WOOOF has farms across Canada that help voluntourists hone their homesteading skills.

The Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) is a research organization that invites travellers on day trips and week-long trips in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to study blue, humpback, fin and minke whales. "Research apprentices," travellers snap pics, collect data, and participate in whale biopsies.

Korean market takes a new look at Canada

(Originally published in TOURISM)

In a report to industry partners, Tourism Saskatchewan's manager of international marketing Ted Hornung provides an insightful account of his participation at the CTC's Showcase Canada in Seoul, Korea: "The Korean market is changing and quite quickly at that," he notes. "For many years the Korean traveller was a group traveller sticking pretty close to BC, Alberta and Niagara Falls. This is changing because of increasing interest in the FIT market, with more fly/drive packages."

According to Hornung, Korean travellers are more fluent in English than they were, they benefit from higher disposable income, and they are not afraid to strike it out on their own. "There also is an increase in women-based tours, such as friends or mother/daughter trips. Koreans want to see interesting places; yet they want to experience them by 'doing' and becoming involved."

The following are some of the trends with room for growth for Canadian suppliers Hornung sees emerging in the Korean market:

* Expanding travel further East
* English-as-a-second-language programs
* Home stay programs
* More e-marketing
* Attending more consumer shows
* Experiential travel
* 50+ market
* Family travel
* Trekking
* Cuisine

Hornung says the age of travellers in the mother/daughter segment is generally between 40 and 60 years of age (for the parent) and 10 to 30 years of age (for the child). "The maximum travel time has not changed that much, with 10 to12-day maximums (door to door).

"There is also an increase in credit card companies getting into the travel business, offering their card users travel opportunities," Hornung goes on. "More and more Koreans are using the internet as a major source of their information gathering, but still are strongly drawn to book their travel with travel agencies." However, Hornung notes this is also starting to change.

Tourism for Tomorrow Awards deadline December 5

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is inviting participation in the 2008 edition of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

There are four categories for entry: the Destination Award (for destinations of any size which show a commitment to responsible tourism development); the Conservation Award (for any tourism organization committed to the protection of natural heritage); the Investor in People Award (for any tourism organization which shows a commitment to human resource development and local community involvement); and the Global Tourism Business Award (for a tourism business of at least 200 employees operating in more than one destination which demonstrates responsible tourism practices).

The deadline for entries is December 5, 2007. Winners and finalists will be invited to attend a special ceremony during the 8th Global Travel & Tourism Summit held in Dubai in spring 2008.

www.tourismfortomorrow.com

Travel Trade: Brits taking extreme sport risk

(Originally published in TOURISM)

On-line personal finance consumer E-zine The Thrifty Scot (ThriftyScot.co.uk) reports that many Brits would participate in an extreme sport abroad, knowing they weren't covered for the activity under their travel insurance deal. Research shows 17% of adults in the UK would get involved in adrenaline-based pastimes such as tobogganing, off-piste snowboarding and even lake ice diving, without having the appropriate coverage.

Travel insurance spokesman Jacky Brown cautions that it is not worthwhile for holiday-makers heading to the slopes to take their chances: "Any winter sports holiday comes with a certain element of risk; whether on a nursery slope or a black run, accidents do happen and it's crucial to have medical coverage to avoid footing a hefty bill."

It was found that 27% of those asked believe that all annual travel policies cover skiing as standard. This is not the case.

Friday, November 2

Ontario navigates successfully through troubled waters



(Originally published in TOURISM)

“The hard numbers will prove how we did in the end,” comments Robin Garrett, president and CEO of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership (OTMP). “But I can tell you that, having spent a good part of the summer speaking with operators across the province, we were pleased to see there was a very strong domestic market this summer.”

Garrett would like to believe Ontario’s heavy emphasis on its domestic campaign was a factor. “In some places in the province, it sounds like domestic visitors compensated for any losses seen from the US market. Visits were even surpassing results from previous years, because of the strong domestic market,” she says.

With very aggressive marketing efforts, Garrett believes, Ontario was kept top of mind. “I saw a Conference Board of Canada study recently which showed that Ontarians were feeling much more aware of what there is to see and do in their own province than for our counterparts across Canada,” she notes. “So that was good to hear. It means we made the inroads we wanted to.”

Garrett elaborates further: “The US continues to challenge us, particularly the overnight travel, but we have seen some solid growth in domestic and overseas markets as a whole. There are certain parts of the overseas markets that are stronger than others; this depends on the product offering and the type of consumer being sought.

“Obviously, we want to increase tourism of any kind. However the biggest opportunity and the best return on investment does lie within the group that is coming to stay longer and would be a higher yield customer - somebody who might have higher disposable income and might spend more and stay longer. That certainly would be a better focus area for us.”

The OTMPC has taken concrete steps in that direction, according to Garrett. “We are very excited about our new marketing plan being launched at our summit on October 3rd and 4th in Ottawa. Instead of approaching marketing from a purely geographic basis (identifying our customers by geography), we have instead looked at segmentation research and used sources of research available through the CTC, as well as some of our own work, and examined it in terms of what kinds of experiences interested certain segments of the market. All of the marketing programs we are putting forward for North America (US and domestic) will be based on this consumer segmentation approach.

“Central to this,” Garrett says, “is the belief (already identified by many marketing experts over a number of years) that there is a shift in the way people get information and make their decisions, heavily weighted in the interactive world. That does not hold you to geography; instead you can go after networks of people who are interested in similar kinds of experiences, no matter where they live. By using a heavy emphasis on the interactive channel, we will be launching several different marketing programs to market in that way.”

Robin Garrett explains that we can look forward to more of this kind of approach in overseas markets in the future. “It is not an immediate opportunity for us because we are working predominantly with the in-market, but where we do work with consumers (with the CTC) it is the kind of approach we’d like to go on.”

A voice for tourism in Ontario

Bill Allen, president of the board of directors of Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO)


(Originally published in TOURISM)

It may come as a surprise to some that Ontario’s $21 billion tourism sector did not have a provincial advocacy organization until now. As of this year, the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) is filling this role, and the board of directors has hired 33-year veteran career civil servant and former deputy minister of tourism Bill Allen to take the helm as president. TOURISM asked him why he felt the need to undertake this new challenge:

“I am very passionate about the tourism industry,” Allen responds. “We’ve got a great province, a great country, and we should be presenting it to people from around the world. Tourism is such a positive industry. When I was in government, I was always frustrated by the fact there wasn’t one strong voice for tourism. I felt because of that Tourism was losing out to some of the other industries like the auto industry, agriculture, forestry, mining and so on, which were much better organized and presented themselves with one unified voice. That is why I am doing it. I want to see a strong voice for tourism, so we can have the same profile as some of the other industries.”

Allen explains that TIAO is the fruit of some major soul-searching among Ontario tourism operators. “There was an association called the Tourism Federation of Ontario,” he notes. “They didn’t have any staff and relied on volunteers who were trying to raise the profile of the association. Three years ago, they did a review of the industry and came to the conclusion they should have a well-resourced association with paid staff who are able to advocate on behalf of the tourism industry. Coming out of the study was the formation of the TIAO. Here is a group of tourism leaders who have come together and formed an interim board and we, the Association, came into being back in March of this year.”

Allen expects TIAO to provide significant leverage for the industry. “Without a unified voice, it is difficult for government to take industry representatives as seriously as it could, and the government may be confused by mixed messages coming from the industry. The objective of TIAO is to present that unified voice on the key issues in which the government needs to be involved, either helping to solve problems or in partnership with the industry for its enhancement.”

One of these overarching issues, according to Allen, is the competitiveness of the tourism industry compared to other jurisdictions, particularly jurisdictions outside Canada. “With the strong dollar, our industry doesn’t have the same competitive advantage, cost-wise, it used to enjoy.”

This is compounded by many other smaller issues which contribute to the competitiveness challenge, he goes on: “If you look at how a traveller makes a decision to come to a particular destination, there are three factors that have an impact. First comes the product: what is the feeling about going to a destination? What is going to excite me about it? What are the attractions? What are the things to see and do? Second comes marketing: telling people what we have. There are certainly a number of areas where we need to do a better job of marketing, compared to what other jurisdictions are doing. The third issue is: how easy is it to get here? When I say easy, I am talking about air capacity and the cost of getting here. If it costs twice as much to come to Ontario or Canada, versus going to Europe, that is a negative factor.”

On this last point Bill Allen raises issues around barriers to rubber tire traffic, notably border issues. “Is there going to be a line-up? The high level of security is a complaint we see in our research, particularly coming from the US traveller.”

One of the roles Allen would like to see played by government is to be out there prospecting those new markets: “Traditionally, Ontario has gone after the border states. They are easy pickings - you just have to drive across. Those markets are becoming more difficult to attract. We need to be looking a little farther afield. The challenge to developing new markets is that it takes time and it takes money, and the challenge for destinations is they are looking for quick and immediate resolutions. What I am suggesting is that a role for government is to go into those new markets and promote the province. Then, after they raise the awareness of the province, the individual destinations can come in and ‘close the deal and close the sale’. It is this awareness-raising our association feels is critical, and the activity that requires the backing of government dollars.”

On the subject of TIAO’s collaboration with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership (the existing provincial marketing organization) Allen foresees a tandem cycle that pedals ahead smoothly: “Already we have a good relationship. We met with them several times, and talked about the role of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership (OTMP) relative to our association. Clearly our association won’t be doing any marketing - this is not part of our mandate - but we will be representing a number of associations which do market, like Resorts of Ontario and the Ontario Private Campground Association, as well as destinations like Tourism Toronto, Ottawa Tourism and Tourism Niagara. When we meet with government, we would be promoting a collaborative approach to marketing with the OTMP and our members.”

Bill Allen cites TIAO’s partnership with the OTMP, which is hosting its 3rd Tourism Summit in early October, as an example of working together. “We are in this partnership with them this first year because we are a fledgling organization. It sends a very positive signal to government, as well as to the industry, that we are willing to work with the OTMP for the betterment of the industry.”

Betterment of the industry includes generating new investments, Allen believes. This is something the Ontario Ministry of Tourism is also committed to, and a pivotal element in helping maximizing industry revenues. “This gets back to the product factor. If we are not investing in new products, attractions and new reasons for people to come, then they will go somewhere else. When we are sitting down with government, we are saying we shouldn’t just focus on marketing, we need to place equal emphasis on building the product, the compelling reasons for people to visit. Investment is critical, and I think government can play two roles: one is investing in the properties that it owns (Ontario Place, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, the Niagara Parks Commission, Fort William, for example). The good news is that the government has recently put more money into those tourism destinations. The other role in which we see government assisting is the development of a public-private sector approach to renewing and revitalizing the tourism product.”

Bill Allen's passion for the industry, the clarity of his vision and his many years of experience, bode well for the future of Ontario's new tourism industry association.

Quebec cashes in on events, campaign tactics

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Tourisme Québec's advertising and promotional partnerships manager is Gilles Parent, and these days he takes some pleasure from looking at the numbers racked up by Tourisme Montréal. “They reveal a very interesting pulse on current performance,” Parent says. “If we compare Montréal in July 2006 to Montréal in July 2007, we observe right away that nearly 19,000 more nights were booked. This suggests that despite all prognoses, there is a 4.3% increase compared to last year, which is rather significant.”

Parent suspects the major events hosted by Montréal have played a huge role. “There are the Grand Prix of Canada, the Montréal International Jazz Festival, and the Just For Laughs Festival. We had the first NASCAR race in Canada, which was a huge success. There has been an increase in European visitors as well as Mexican visitors (thanks to two daily flights with Mexicana and Air Canada). We invested in the Mexican market two years ago and we are now reaping the rewards. So we are happy.”

Like other jurisdictions, Quebec is seeing fewer American travellers, he notes. Parent’s team is targeting households with revenues of more than $120,000 in that market. “We are hoping our campaign evaluation will confirm that the decline in numbers from the US will be offset by our greater emphasis on these higher-yield travellers.”

Parent says his team also worked hard in the Ontario market, through initiatives among ethnic communities like Hispanic consumers. “For the first time, we used Spanish-language media; we also worked with Portuguese, Greek and Italian-language media, inviting these communities in the Greater Toronto area to come to Quebec. Nobody ever bothered doing that before.”

Parent says a key development has been the call for proposals issued by his department asking stakeholders to come forward with projects. “We committed to enter partnerships with them on a 50:50 basis. We ended up with 26 different files totaling $4 million in value targeting markets outside Quebec only. We worked with the Laurentians and with organizations like Kéroul (a non-profit group which promotes and develops wheelchair accessible tourism).”

Earlier in the season, attractions like Parc Safari were reporting an increase in visitors from Ontario and the northeastern US. “We invested heavily in web marketing using streaming technology to attract over one million visitors a month to our website. We also got into the famous AAA TourBooks, but instead of advertising in the Québec TourBook, we got into the TourBooks for our neighbouring states (New York and New England), and Ontario. When users open the book, they come across a four-colour, ten-panel, accordion-style piece on Quebec, suggesting to readers: ‘you are so close to Quebec, why not come to see us as well.’”

Domestic market: a view from Nunavut

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Besides the Northwest Territories, no other provincial or territorial destination shares Nunavut’s predicament, argues Brian Webb, Nunavut Tourism’s director of marketing and communication. “We are completely a long-haul destination even for the domestic market. So the trends we see usually are the trends affecting the long-haul market, rather than those of short- or mid-haul markets.”

Most domestic travellers to Nunavut are business travellers. Webb has observed a consistent increase year after year, as more come north. “And more leisure travellers are also coming; we see a consistent 1% increase per year; and we see approximately 14,000 leisure visitors per year, of whom over 85% originate from the domestic market.”

If you take the business travellers out of the equation, those numbers shift significantly, Webb continues, to 65 % domestic and 35% for all the other markets. “Visitors surveyed last year indicated business travellers spend, on average, three extra days in Nunavut, which is very high. So, they extend their stay, they take in the area, the culture and the activities. If you are going to come this far, you might as well enjoy it!”

“Our tourism season very much runs from the end of April until the end of September. After that, there is not a lot of travel into the territory. Business travel will still continue, but even those business travellers don’t seem to want to come in the winter. It is amazing how unimportant a business trip seems when it is -40… ‘I think I’ll wait until June!’”

The vast majority of visitors come to Iqaluit, which is the capital. “This is by far what most visitors see,” notes Webb. “Second and third are our other regional centres: Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay. I would say the three destinations account for 95% of the business traveller visits.”

Challenges abound. “Our biggest need in Nunavut continues to be product development. We do not have the wealth of product people are looking for when they are up here. What we do have is very good, but it is not sufficient to meet the demands of the business travellers. Conversely," Webb continues, “we are noticing that the businesses which have the products and the schedules have been doing very well.

Our cruise industry has doubled in each of the last three years, and I have heard it is going very well again this summer. “One of our cruise lines (Cruise North) is only three years old and is projected to make a profit this year in its third year of business, which is exceptional. The lodges in the area have been booked solid, but it is just our local community product where people have their boat trips, their adventures, dog sledding activities and excursions. They haven’t really formalized things, which is what we need to work on now because there is a market out there.

The most vivid example of success is the cruise product. Taking a cruise ship to see Nunavut, as opposed to doing it on one’s own, is an attractive proposition as an easy way to see the territory. “When you go on a cruise ship, everything is taken care of," Webb points out.

The Alberta factor

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Derek Coke-Kerr is managing director of Travel Alberta. Always accessible and candid in his analysis, here is what he sees happening in “Wild Rose Country” when it comes to the significance of domestic travel to his province: “I think we are seeing significant increases in our visitation particularly from Ontario and Quebec (where we have beefed-up our marketing) and also from Saskatchewan and BC.”

“This is strictly at an anecdotal level,” Coke-Kerr stresses. “We don’t have any numbers to support these observations at this time. Our industry seems pretty happy… really happy. The hotels are full; the campgrounds are full. The attendance at Edmonton’s Capital EX was a record this year; the Stampede was close to a record. In general, we are feeling pretty good about the year, but what percentage of that is domestic and what percentage of it is offshore? We really don’t have those numbers in such a way that I could confidently expand upon this.”

Coke-Kerr recognizes that one of the factors which might have influenced the current outcome is the fact Travel Alberta has increased its marketing weight across the country. “We had an increase in budget this year and we are able to increase our promotion and marketing in Ontario, Quebec, BC and Saskatchewan. We have also increased our marketing this year into Manitoba, where we are doing some research; and we anticipate doing more marketing in Manitoba in the future.

“Let’s not forget 'the Alberta factor', which always plays a crucial role in the industry’s performance, thereby warranting substantial marketing investment. Albertans are our most loyal market. We have seen growth in buy-in to our Travel Alberta Holiday Card. This is a program where 111,000 Albertans obtain a holiday card and receive emails from us twice a month with significant promotions… really good deals and bargains from operators around the province. We have an opening rate on this newsletter of just over 70%, which is huge. It is a very positive program indeed.”

“Stay-at-home” campaigns cut both ways

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Quebeckers have long enjoyed a special relationship with Prince Edward Island, and generations of them have made the iconic Canadian island destination a perpetual favorite for family holidays. However, the local provincial tourism industry has lately witnessed some fluctuations in the number of travellers from Quebec, and this has left the executive director of the PEI Tourism Industry Association, Don Cudmore, a little puzzled.

“The Quebec market seems to be inconsistent. One year it is up, one year it is down. If there is a trend, it is inconsistency in visitation from Quebec. We can’t seem to get a handle on it but we continue to try and work that market.” Fortunately, Cudmore says, Ontario (PEI’s largest market) remains relatively stable even if, in his words, “it doesn’t show a whole lot of growth.”

Cudmore notes that many of the neighbouring provinces have conducted effective stay-at-home campaigns lately. “Newfoundland and Labrador, one of our domestic markets, has continued to do a good stay-at-home campaign, which has impacted the number of people travelling outside of that province. Quebec and Ontario have carried out major efforts along the same lines. The reality is that this is impacting travel patterns and our numbers.”

Cudmore says provincial government and industry efforts to counter this trend are relentless. “We are just trying to find ways to be more creative in those markets, to continue to get people to come this way. We are looking at products which attract, and we are enhancing them.”

He is also quick to note that “although we have seen in the past few years some declines in visitation and tourism revenue in this country, the tourism industry is still a major vibrant industry. On PEI, it represents 7% of our GDP, which is very substantial, a lot more than what you will find in our sister provinces. It does have a major impact on our economic development.”

Cudmore also points out that the increasing popularity of all-inclusive vacations among Canadians who are frequent travellers outside of the country is not without consequences. “This has certainly impacted what they would spend on their trips within Canada. And more people are going to the US at the moment; all of these things are impacting domestic travel. The good news is, although they are having an impact on us, we are not having dramatic declines.”

“We know tourism is a growing segment. We have a great product. We are going through a process of cataloguing our product and making it easier for the consumer to understand and experience,” says Cudmore. Tourism stakeholders are also looking at opportunities emerging from the establishment of the Confederation Trail for outdoor-based vacations. “We are doing a lot of infrastructure work and we are spending much time telling more people about it. We are also cataloguing our beaches, so our visitors can select the beach that fits their needs, whether they are full-service beaches with large parking areas or secluded beaches where visitors might go to for a swim and a walk on a beach.”

Ontario seeks tourism investment through the web

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Sometimes, just helping establish a connection between an investor and an investment opportunity is all it takes. That is the thinking behind the Ontario government's web-based investment initiative (www.2ontario.com/tourism) that, according to Ontario's James Lynn is the most comprehensive one of its kind. Says Lynn (a senior investment consultant at the Ontario Ministry of Tourism’s Investment and Development Office): “As far as we know, we have never found another tourism investment website with the depth of knowledge of this website.”

Lynn provided TOURISM with a guided visit to the website and its associated investment newsletter. The Regional Tourism Investment Opportunities section is the first stop. “If I am an investor, I can search for investment opportunities either by sector or by region. For example, if I want to build a resort in Ontario, listings and municipalities are there.”

Business cases are prepared and made available online by economic development officials in those communities, he continues. “I spend a great deal of time talking to them about this resource that is available to them for free. We were very successful in the Town of Iroquois Falls, which put an ad online to attract an investor to come and build a hotel; as of 2006, an investor did contact them and, as far as I know, the negotiations are still taking place on the development of that hotel. So here is a wonderful example of where government has stepped in, assisting municipalities by creating this conduit to the investment community.”

In Lynn’s view, the rationale for developing a resource like this is simple enough. “If I was an investor sitting down in Atlanta, Georgia, and received hundreds of different proposals from communities saying ‘come build here', it is difficult to narrow down (the opportunities). By providing this one website and a site selector, an investor can sit back and say ‘let's find out what Ontario is looking for right now.’”

The website is the culmination of a community tourism development process that involves spending time with the communities, going through things like SWOT analyses or the Tourist Destinations Framework (an assessment and evaluation tool used to develop an inventory, analyze a region’s tourism amenities and attractions and identify opportunities for tourism investment and development). The framework is designed to result in a strategic action plan for tourism to improve the region’s performance in the tourism marketplace.

And, as a periodical reminder of Ontario’s potential, the companion Investment Newsletter it is a timely, quarterly communications piece started in April. “We first went out with a Niagara edition because everybody knows Niagara and we are reaching out to an international audience with a database of over 2,500 investors, site selectors and real estate people - anybody who would be interested in the tourism industry. We give a quick overview of the region. We talked about Great Wolf Lodge and to the folks at Ripley’s (The Jim Pattison Group), and asked them ‘why did you build here? What were the reasons you chose Ontario?”

The following edition focused on the Muskoka region, followed by a Georgian Bay-themed edition, continues Lynn. “With the website and it components, we have created something a lot of other jurisdictions in the world are starting to emulate, and it is the world’s largest tourism investment website. If you do a Google search and type in ‘tourism investment’, we come up #1. We have really staked our place in cyberspace in terms of being able to get on investors' radar.”

Targeted marketing starts with detailed intelligence

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Le Québec maritime was founded in 1997 by five tourism associations seeking to promote their regions to markets outside Quebec. Christian Ouellet, a research officer with the organization, says he has noticed an important consumer shift since 2002 in how consumers find out about products. “Consumers are less and less likely to access tourism products through travel agents and are becoming more autonomous when planning their trips,” says Ouellet. “This is mainly because of the increasing role played by the internet.”

Ouellet refers to a 2005 study conducted among visitors to the region which found that two-thirds of those surveyed had made use of the internet to plan their trip. “The internet is becoming a very important planning tool,” he points out. “This means it is also becoming an important marketing tool, which compels Québec Maritime to change its practices. More and more, we use the web to lure consumers; for instance, this year we worked in partnership with Tourisme Québec and the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (SEPAC) to stream 20-second short videos introducing the Québec maritime experience on outdoor activity and weather websites. The intent was to get the web users’ attention and to lead them to our marketing campaign sites where products and tourism offerings were featured in greater detail.”

Depending on their profile, surfers were directed to different web channels. ‘Contemplative’ visitors were directed to one channel, and surfers identified as ‘outdoor enthusiasts’ were directed to another. “This approach,” Ouellet says, “fosters a market segmentation which allows us to get to know our clients better. It is also harmonized with our exit survey of 1,500 tourists from outside Quebec (English Canada, the US and Europe).”

With this intelligence in hand, Ouellet says they are able to flesh out a general portrait of their visitors. “It allows us to not only establish our visitors’ point of origin, but also to target regions, cities, neighbourhoods and streets. With the help of available statistics (like those from Statistics Canada), we can get to know the profile of people who live there, what their specific family income is, whether or not they have children, are part of the workforce, or are retired. By gaining greater knowledge of visitors’ profiles, it becomes easier to speak with them in terms they can relate to.”

Ouellet says his team has witnessed a growth in marketing tactic performance as a result. It also yielded valuable intelligence, like an observed increased concern for the environment: “We need to offer a quality experiences that respect the client as well as the environment.”

The other emerging aspect which matters is authenticity, Ouellet finds. “Along with beautiful landscapes, considerations around nature, local hospitality and culture also matter.” More specifically, he highlights consumers’ curiosity around what is commonly referred to as “free” culture (as opposed to museum or artisans shop visits). The memorability of the travel experience often stems from people finding themselves suddenly on shared, yet unfamiliar ground, thereby creating opportunities for exchange. That is often the essence of the journey, and an element that is all too often put aside.

Countdown to 400: celebration organizers shift gear

Société du 400e anniversaire de Québec president and CEO Pierre Boulanger
Photo: Claude-Jean Harel


(Originally published in TOURISM)

TOURISM recently caught up with Société du 400e anniversaire de Québec president and CEO Pierre Boulanger, who had been invited to bring Canadian Capital Cities Organization (CCCO) members up to date on plans for the celebration at the annual CCCO conference held this year in Regina.

Boulanger took the opportunity to invite influencers representing other capital cities like Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Victoria, Fredericton, Ottawa, Charlottetown, Iqaluit and Edmonton to impart a pan-Canadian flavour to the commemoration. “We must remember that this will not only be a celebration of the French presence on the American continent; it also celebrates Canada’s beginnings. There is a place for each one of us,” Boulanger explains.

One of the initiatives he hopes will remind Canadians of that is the bell ringing initiative he is actively promoting. “We hope that in all cities and towns, in as many Canadian communities as possible, on July 3rd 2008 at 11:00 a.m. (exactly 400 years after the arrival of Samuel de Champlain at what is now Québec), bells will ring across Canada to celebrate this milestone event and the fact that we are all together in this country.”

Boulanger has his sights set on an even greater reach. He is calling on specific American markets like New England (where many Franco-Americans of Quebec descent eventually made their home) to retrace the journey back to Québec; he is inviting Americans of Irish descent, whose forebears arrived at Québec as part the original wave of 500,000 Irish immigrants who have evolved into today’s 40 million American citizens of Irish ancestry, to commemorate with Canadians.

“This is an opportunity for these people to re-appropriate their roots. Across the Atlantic,” he goes on, “in France and other European countries, events will also take place to commemorate Québec’s 400th anniversary.”

As the countdown to the event gets closer, organizers are shifting gears for the final sprint to December 31, 2007. “The program is more or less finalized and the major contracts are signed. From the moment this is all in place, it becomes easier for us to be more active on the communications front.

“On December 31, 2007, we are entering the event production mode. Our 10-month long show starts then. From that moment on, participants in Québec city and everywhere will be in the midst of celebrations. Instead of saying ‘Come to Québec in 2008,’ we will say ‘next week there is this event taking place… come and see the show.’”

The Québec Convention Centre is recording 60% more conventions for 2008 than in 2007 which in itself was a banner year, and Québec City Tourism expects 2.5 million more visitors for 2008.

As the momentum builds, Boulanger has the following words of advice for other destinations wishing to take a commemorative opportunity like this to its fullest potential:

“It is all about partnerships. It is absolutely essential that the other partners - funding providers, organizations like Québec City Tourism with which we work on a daily basis, the Chamber of Commerce, and so on - work collectively on the project . It is everybody’s business. This may be an old cliché, but it is still valid in this context: it is not so much what the 400th can do for you that matters, but rather, what you can do to ensure its success.”

Events contribute to strong Manitoba performance

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to information from Travel Manitoba, that province's tourism industry was reporting strong performance as the summer season drew to a close. The hotels and accommodations sector reports the number of room nights sold year-to-date increasing by 5.6% over the same period in 2006. Winnipeg's international Airport was also reported as busier compared to last year, welcoming 7.9% more scheduled travellers year-to-date, also as of June 30.

Domestic markets continue to play a vital role in overall tourism in Manitoba; the majority of visitors originating from Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. Travellers from North Dakota and Minnesota top the list of US visitors. Visits to the province by overseas guests jumped 13.6% from January to June, compared to the same period last year, according to a recent report from Statistics Canada, with the majority of guests originating from Germany and the UK. Overall visits from the US to Manitoba are expected to drop by about 4.5 per cent in 2007, according to forecasts released by The Conference Board of Canada.

Strong sector performance was demonstrated by attendance at Manitoba's major festivals in 2007, with events such as the 20th annual Winnipeg Fringe Festival attracting record crowds of 71, 921, compared to 69,320 in 2006, and the 18th annual Dauphin Countryfest attracting a record 48,000 attendees, compared to 44,000 in 2006. The 34th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival recorded near-record crowds and had a record 6,331 visitors camp on-site. Folklorama attracted a record 111 group tours and welcomed the highest number of visitors seen at the event in five years.

While final numbers on July and August's performance will not be available until later this fall, the Conference Board of Canada predicts that overall visits to Manitoba will increase by 2.3% in 2007 and 3.5% in 2008. Accordingly, tourism revenues are expected to increase by 3.4% in 2007 and 4.3% in 2008.

Domestic market: inexorable growth in Vancouver

Vancouver's False Creek viewed from Granville IslandPhoto: Claude-Jean Harel
(Originally published in TOURISM)

Domestic tourism activity is coloured with relentless optimism in Canada’s western-most metropolis, according to Tourism Vancouver’s VP of leisure travel and destination management Stephen Pearce. “For the last few years, domestic travel has been very strong, right across the board,” says Pearce. “We tend to look at the following market segments (BC resident travel, Alberta and Ontario), while ‘Other Canada’ gets grouped together. Year over year, we have seen anywhere from 3% to 4% growth from our key Canadian markets since 2005. From 2005 to 2006, overall, Canada was up by 3%; Alberta was up by almost 6 %; and Ontario was up by 4%. Similarly, when I look at the year-to-date numbers, we are still up 3% over last year.”

Pearce sees significant developments in Alberta and Ontario, with consistent growth. “We tend to have a peak period over our summer months, January to September, and that has been pretty consistent will all of our Canadian markets,” he notes. “We have a portfolio of markets that we monitor, so fluctuations in one market will be offset positively by growth in other markets.

“We haven’t spent enough resources researching domestic travel patterns, and we are embarking on some research in metropolitan Toronto to get a clearer understanding of reasons for visitation (perceptions about Vancouver and how these perceptions have shifted over time). We are seeking to identify the characteristics of the traveller that we are seeing today; we did this in Alberta about a year and a half ago, focusing on the key cities of Edmonton and Calgary.”

One of the perceptions to which Pearce will pay particular attention is stereotypes about prices in Vancouver—particularly hotel prices: “We found that sometimes, looking at competitive destinations where we knew we had a price advantage, Albertans still saw us as being the price leader, which often was not the case. We also found there were opportunities for us to package Vancouver in conjunction with other destinations such as Victoria and Whistler.” The Alberta research, Pearce notes, provided Tourism Vancouver with a good base with which to continue to develop messages for the Alberta market.

As far as the Ontario market goes, Pearce says he has observed a spike in visitation in the past few years “that has been driven by a whole host of factors.” He hopes to gain greater insight into the characteristics of those consumers, so Vancouver might be better positioned to meet their needs longer term.

On the US front, Pearce finds the drop in visitation has acted as a bit of a buffer in terms of the domestic market. “So even though our travel deficit has moved to an all-time high, Canadians are still opting to choose vacations in Canada in conjunction with travel abroad.”

Pearce believes the increasing perceptions and challenges with visiting the United States are helping domestic travel. “I don’t know this with great certainty, and it is something we would want to explore. What are the substitutes for a vacation in Vancouver? Are we picking up more VFR, or are we picking up people who are choosing to come to Vancouver for other reasons? We need to better understand these things; what we do know is we are experiencing year-over-year growth, and we are quite pleased with that.”

Saskatoon growth paying off for tourism

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Randy Fernets is upbeat when he talks about the tourism industry in Saskatoon in the summer of 2007. Fernets, director of corporate development & visitor services at Tourism Saskatoon, told TOURISM there is a “buzz” about Saskatoon these days, and while his organization had not targeted Ontario and Quebec specifically for this year, “we saw a lot of people from those provinces this summer, and I think a lot of this is attributable to Saskatoon's strong growth.” On the downside, Fernets reports that visits to his city from the US market are off this season.

Fernets suspects many people coming through are looking for a place to live, and for work. “The same can be said for Alberta, which is always our number one market in any case, but it’s bigger this year because of the Saskatoon 'buzz',” he explains. “Visits from British Columbia were up as well.”

Saskatoon has been engaged in a Cultural Capitals project over the last year, and Fernets feels it is paying off when it comes to driving in-province residents to the city. “We sense the advertising campaign we had under the cultural capitals program did really well for us in terms of attracting people from within Saskatchewan to our events. Some of our events struggled because of bad weather, unfortunately, but many of them did very well.”

Saskatoon's position as the fastest-growing city in Canada (according to a recent release from the Conference Board of Canada) has almost certainly been the underlying reason for the 'buzz' Fernets talks about. “Most of the folks coming this summer were leisure travellers, but many of the Alberta visitors particularly were interested in real estate; we had many people – speculators, it appears – coming into our visitor reception centres and telephoning us looking for sub-division maps!”

Adventure, touring and MC&IT are Yukon's strengths

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Pierre Germain will be the first to admit Yukon benefits from an unusual set of circumstances when it comes to the impact of the Canada's strong dollar on US visitation. Germain, director of tourism for the Yukon government, says there is a fairly reliable flow of rubber tire traffic which must come through Yukon in order to get to Alaska, but that does not make Canadian domestic travellers any less important for his jurisdiction.

“The domestic market is the second largest market in terms of visitation to Yukon, second only to the US,” says Germain, and he points out that marketing efforts have focused primarily on four key market areas: “We consider three gateway markets to be our priority – Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. They are markets with which we have direct air access. More importantly perhaps, there is a higher level of awareness of Yukon as a travel destination at these locations than there is in other parts of Canada.” Germain says the 4th key area on which Yukon focuses is Toronto. “With its strong population base and high concentration of affluent consumers, it offers a great opportunity for us to position Yukon as an adventure destination.”

Three product offering types are of particular interest, according to Germain. “One is adventure product, where your primary motivator is to participate in an outdoor adventure experience whether it would be canoeing, going to a fishing lodge, hiking or river rafting. The second key market is what we call our touring market, made up of people who want to come up, rent a vehicle and travel around the territory. There is some overlap between the adventure and the touring segments only in that some people who come up to tour feel that driving on the Alaska Highway is an adventure in itself. But we break it down for simplicity’s sake into touring, adventure, and our meetings, conventions and incentive travel (MC&IT) market.”

Germain notes that the touring market is the largest just in shear numbers, followed by adventure and MC&IT in terms of return on investment and market potential. “We consider all three of them to be significant. We have a series of other niche product offerings and experiences which are important to us, such as First Nations aboriginal product. We also have a cultural product, which is growing in size, but adventure, touring and MC&IT are our mainstays.”

And the current performance is encouraging, Germain points out. “As of the end of August, visitation to the Yukon for the year has been up 5%, which is significant compared to what other jurisdictions are experiencing. There has been a significant shift in Yukon benefiting from the tremendous cruise industry growth in Alaska. We have been benefiting through increased numbers of cruise tour visitors on trips up the Inside Passage who get on a motorcoach and travel through the Yukon.”

“We have also seen a significant increase in the number of visitors who are coming to Alaska on a cruise, taking a shore excursion into Yukon for a day and then going back. This has been followed by a trend where an increased number of visitors fly into the Yukon and then travel around the territory. So the fly‑drive opportunities are increasing significantly, and that was borne through by some of the statistics obtained from Whitehorse International Airport.”

In July, Yukon’s largest visitation month, the number of individuals boarding and de‑planing at the airport was up 19%, compared to July 2006. “It set a record for the number of people in and out of our airport. So there is significant opportunity for us, as we see the long‑haul independent rubber tire traveller continuing to decline a little bit. We are seeing new growth opportunities for fly‑drives, in air arrivals and in the motorcoach and cruise tour product.”

Germain attributes also some of Yukon’s visitation success to one strategy: “working with our northern territorial partners (the Northwest Territories and Nunavut) to position the north as a viable tourism destination for southern Canadians. The Canada Games campaign is a prime example of this. As a result of our partnership, more Canadians in southern Canada are aware of the positive aspects of travel in the north than they ever were before.”

"The innovation here," he continues, "is not rocket science. It is actually collaborating with our sister territories to position the north so we can generate some economies of scale. We know from our research that if Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are able to generate a visitor through our program, there is an increased likelihood they will come to the Yukon in the future and vice‑versa. There are people who view competition as a barrier to working together, and quite frankly, we are not competing against one another. We are working more toward market growth for us all.”

Disney production on Canada receives facelift

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Since 1982, people from around the world have been taken on a tour of beautiful Canadian landscapes and diverse cultures as they watched the film O Canada! in the Canada pavilion at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Now, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) and tourism industry partners have collaborated with the Walt Disney World Resort and Walt Disney Imagineering to give this movie a facelift. The newly enhanced film spotlights Canada in a modern, witty way - much like the CTC's new Brand Canada - by showcasing Canada's self-deprecating sense of humour as well as our best-loved icons in a fresh, unexpected way.

This fall, the reworked version will light up the screen in the Canada pavilion at Epcot. Actor Martin Short, a Hamilton, Ontario native, confronts Canadian misconceptions head-on and demystifies them. Viewers take a journey through a country they thought they knew, but discover Canada is so much more than vast landscapes.

The film is 14 minutes in length with 65% new footage. Instead of cars, clothes and cityscapes, the film takes in acrobatic Cirque du Soleil performances and rowdy rodeo action at the Calgary Stampede. Scenes portray Canada's diverse people, culture and wilderness - a modern, young and beautiful nation. The soundtrack features Québec singer Eva Avila.

“This film is a huge success story for Canada,” says CTC President and CEO Michele McKenzie. “It does what our Brand Canada does - paints a picture of Canada as it is today: progressive, colourful, multi-ethnic and original. It's time we show Americans and the world what Canada really has to offer.”

Partners in the project include theCalgary Stampede, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corp., Tourisme Montréal, Tourisme Québec, Québec City Tourism, Tourism Toronto, Tourism Vancouver and Travel Alberta. “Updating this production has been identified as a priority at several of our annual conferences,” says Tourism Industry Association of Canada president and CEO Randy Williams. “It is gratifying to see this done, and done well, in cooperation with all the partners.”

Uncommon solutions for uncommon times

(Originally published in TOURISM)

“We have seen a change in the mix of what our visitors look like coming in our front door,” says Dave Calder, vice-president of marketing and communications at the Vancouver Aquarium Dave. “There is no question that we have seen a softening of American tourists, particularly from Washington and Oregon States.” It would appear, he notes, that “the further away you get from Vancouver, the better numbers seem to have held up. It makes sense, because if someone from the US (not unlike someone from Canada) has made a decision to go on a trip, they probably planned it for some time and the dollar fluctuation may not be as relevant to them.”

“The aquarium, just by virtue of the kind of signature tourist attraction it is in this city, really draws well, year after year, from Washington, Oregon, Alberta, the interior of BC and Vancouver Island," says Calder. "Our sense of what has happened over the last few months is that while the American numbers have softened, the numbers from the Pacific Rim countries and Europe have pretty much (on a per-person basis) replaced that shortfall.”

And sometimes, the things that make a difference just happen spontaneously. “The #1 viewed ‘pet and animal video’ on YouTube is called ‘Otters Holding Hands’,” explains Calder, “a mere few thousand views away from the 8 million mark. It was posted this spring by a university professor from Florida who was in Vancouver a few years ago doing some post-graduate studies at the aquarium when she shot the video.

Calder’s team is making the most of this unexpected break to draw visitors. "We put this video (graciously offered to the aquarium by its author) onto the Air Canada in-flight package, so the people traveling out to Vancouver would see it. It was a simple solution, harnessed through creativity.” The exposure on the internet is phenomenal. Type ‘Otters Holding Hands’ into Google, and there are over 660,000 references to it. Sometimes, uncommonly good things happen when you really need them!