National groups working to make Canada a prime destination
At one time Canada ranked seventh in the world of tourism destinations, with just over 20 million visitors in 2002.
“Then all hell broke loose,” said Rob Taylor of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC).
Taylor was one of the participants in a Town Hall style forum at the Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) annual conference and trade show Feb 36-28 in Gander.
The “hell” Taylor referred to were the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2002.
According to Taylor, it was one of the factors that led to Canada dropping to 18th in the world ratings in 2011 with just 16 million visitors. There is an effort to reclaim lost ground and Canada ranked 16th in 2012, with just over 18 million visitors.
These days, most of Canada’s visitors are coming from the US, China and Mexico.
Taylor says the economy has never been better for re-engaging the United States. There are 120 million Americans with passports.
“The economy is recovering and Americans are travelling,” he told the conference.
However, growth doesn’t come without investment, he says, and the TIAC is asking Ottawa to invest more in tourism.
“Businesses are only as competitive as our government allows them to be,” he says, adding the federal government needs to address the “competitive imbalances” between Canada and other countries.
He said there is an “incredible price point barrier”, especially when it comes to areas like aviation.
“We have to find a competitive edge,” he said.
TIAC will be lobbying the federal government for funding to further tourism initiatives. Taylor said it’s time for government to “stop treating the tourism industry as a cash cow.
“The next budget has tremendous opportunity for us,” he predicts. “There was nothing (for the tourism industry) in the last budget, but there is opportunity for next year.”
TIAC is encouraging industry representatives from the 308 federal ridings across the country to become part of a grassroots campaign to lobby the federal government for more funding for the travel/tourism industry.
The website www.tiac.travel offers a letter, outlining tourism industry issues, which members can send to their Member of Parliament.
Those taking part in the conference were also encouraged to keep the tourism industry at the forefront for their MPs, inviting them to events and engaging them in discussions about tourism industry issues. The hope is that the MPs will take an MP Pledge in support of the industry.
When it comes to attracting tourists to Canada, there is a national effort to showcase what tourism operators have to offer.
Taylor pointed out that there are whole new markets of international travellers exploring different countries, including Canada.
John Mamela from the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) says tourism is recognized as one of the fastest growing industries in the country.
The CTC works to attract international tourists to Canada and they have invested in various marketing programs.
Through the use of initiatives involving the Internet, social media and the travel swap program, Mamela says CTC is seeing their work pay off, with people interested in coming to Canada and experiencing all that it has to offer.
A number of their initiatives included icebergs in their promotional material, something tourists are known to flock to this province for. You can check out one of the CTC initiatives at www.keepexploring.ca for a snapshot of what it takes to make people want to visit this country.
The travel swap program “Upgrade to Canada” saw tourists in other countries offered the opportunity to give up their travel plans at a moment’s notice and make the journey to Canada instead.
Many travellers accepted the offer and their vacations experiences were also highlighted through the use of social media.
Canada isn’t the only country looking to attract visitors though. Mamela notes competition is fierce in the tourism market, especially with the United States. Britain, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand are also working hard to attract travellers.
“We are not alone in trying to convince people to (visit),” said Mamela. “There is a lot of competition.”
He says it’s not hard to understand the push to attract overseas tourists when you consider that the domestic traveller will spend $300 per night while a visitor from another country will spend up to $1,454 per night.
Attracting young travellers — particularly the 19-29 year old age group — to vacation in Canada is another priority for the CTC. This includes Canadian youth who will take up to eight international trips before taking one trip within Canada.
“They like things that are off the beaten path where they can challenge themselves,” said Mamela. “That’s where you can see the benefit of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
This group of travellers is more sophisticated than you would think, not just eating fast food and staying in hostels.
The young Canadian traveller can spend up to $1,500 a day, according to CTC statistics, while their foreign counterpart spends up to $1720.
HNL’s outgoing chair Darlene Thomas told the Town Hall session she was impressed with what TIAC and CTC had to say about travel in this province. She noted that tourism operators in this province are now welcoming world travellers, and with that comes a level of responsibility to welcome them accordingly.
“They speak very highly of Newfoundland and Labrador and what we are doing here,” said Thomas. “That’s really encouraging to know that on a national level we are doing some good things, but we can’t lift our foot off the pedal for a minute, we have to keep striving to improve.”