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(2016 - Fall Issue)


Right now, globally, our country and its charms are in high demand. Are you ready to receive Canada’s fair share of international tourists?

Every indicator shows we are currently welcoming dollar-spending visitors in higher numbers than expected with travellers from the United States up almost 17 per cent as of May 2016 and increases from Europe up 6.8 per cent and Asia-Pacific up 7.8 per cent. And that’s just for starters. These increases are happening well before the 2017 invitations go out for Canada’s 150th birthday. Such growth demonstrates a solid base for the goal 20/20/2020 set by the tourism marketing organization, Destination Canada. That goal is for our country to receive 20 million visitors, spending $20 billion dollars, by the year 2020.

Why the interest in Canada?

So what is Canada doing differently, you might ask? For a full decade, after all, we’ve lagged far behind other countries when it comes to dividing up the world’s trillion-dollar tourism pie. Canada’s growth has been only 1.5 per cent per annum when internationally the tourism sector was growing by five per cent each year. Now, however, the Canadian slice is noticeably larger. 

A focus on this news was delivered earlier in the year at the 11th Annual Leisure Travel Summit held in Toronto. Tourism specialists pointed out that it is not just one thing sparking Canada’s popularity. Instead, we are currently in one of those rare, steady periods when many long-pursued Canadian travel developments—plus pure luck—are aligning to deliver tangible results.

Hosted by Best Western Hotels & Resorts, the summit featured the insights of five panelists: David Goldstein, president and CEO of Destination Canada; Tony Pollard, president, Hotel Association of Canada (HAC); Brian Payea, head of industry relations for TripAdvisor; Charlotte Bell, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC); and Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Best Western Hotels & Resorts. These officials explained our newfound international magnetism in a few ways.

Canada, for instance, has long been a peace-loving, ethnically rich country with plenty of urban sophistication just steps away from the Great Outdoors. Competitively, however, certain lackluster aspects (such as costs, visa delays and direct air access) had been discouraging enough to send travellers elsewhere. While solutions are still ongoing, Canada has become more affordable for many visitors; non-stop flights are more plentiful; experiential adventures are a promise; and social media recommendations have never been more powerful (four per cent of youth visitors say they would like to come back, and seven per cent say they would recommend Canada to friends). And every year, thousands of new Canadian residents are showing their overseas families around.

Contributing travel trends

So what do Canadian residents get for all this sharing? Data shows that if Canada were to receive just five per cent of the trillion-dollar global travel receipts, this would translate into an increase of $2 billion in tourism spending, plus 15,000 to 28,000 additional jobs over the next three years. If we achieved seven per cent of the pie, this would likely result in 3.8 million new arrivals, $2.9 billion of additional tourism spending and 21,000 to 40,000 new jobs.

Tourism officials say they still have much work to do, however, if you love to travel you might be surprised to hear that much of this early success is credited to you. Travel trends here are similar worldwide, so any request, complaint or recommendation you make can influence solutions to current needs, frustrations, planning tools, special-interest experiences and more. Take a look at some of these trends:  

•          Driving our travel decisions is the lightening speed of communication technology, specifically: the pace and scope of social media influence online; interactive sites such as TripAdvisor; and webcams, beachcams, and now, the arrival of immersion technology where you can take a 360-degree virtual tour of places before leaving home. If you’ve voiced frustrations with certain aspects of your trips in the past, such as airport chaos, flight costs in Canada, visa delays, undesirable accommodation and more, well, you are being heard.

•          The travel-sharing economy (using privately owned facilities and services at a fee) is appealing to those with modest budgets, but this kind of trade is still waiting for fuller regulations to ensure safety, payment security, basic quality and advertising truth. Until then, do your homework.

•          If you’ve expressed interest in 3D entertainment or at-home virtual touring, take note that forward-thinking accommodation establishments are now producing 3D sneak-peeks as a trip-planning tool. In the lead is Best Western Hotels & Resorts. Visit its website to find out how to get Cardboard—the paper-made virtual-reality viewer by Google—which shows you any one of 2,100 Best Western properties as though you were standing in the middle of it.

•          If you’re a Millennial (under 35) much is being done to please you. Mobile travel services are expanding, products are being structured for limited budgets, attractions are inviting you to participate directly. This includes special-interest events such as the Queen West Art Crawl in Toronto, the POP Montréal Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival, to name just a few in the fall. In the meantime, millions of Baby Boomers are also being avidly courted with hands-on experiential travel.

•          Today, business travellers are not rushing home. In 2014, approximately 40 per cent added a leisure component. One short year later, 47 per cent were doing it by adding two to three extra days.

Oh yes, and one more piece of advice. If you’re male and you want to go somewhere, be nice to the women in your life. The current trend shows women in Canada make a whopping 89 per cent of the travel decisions.

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