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Canada is working to become one of the world’s top tourism destinations. In 2017, a record 20.83 million visitors experienced the attractions, vibrant culture and unique history of the world’s second-largest country. The majority of these visitors, some 14.3 million, came from the United States. It was the highest number of U.S. visitors to Canada since 2005.
A number of factors contributed to the record growth of Canadian tourism in 2017, but the fact that it was the 150th birthday of the nation certainly helped. There were special celebrations and entrance fees were waived to all national parks. But the big birthday was just a jump-start in a tourism plan that aims to make Canada a top 10 world tourism destination by 2022.
2018 is shaping up to be another stellar tourism year in Canada. The 2018 Rendez-vous Canada international tourism marketplace saw record attendance numbers of international travel trade members connecting with Canada’s tourism industry partners. Early visitation numbers are also on pace to equal or better 2017’s banner year.
What are the key messages you would like travel agents to know about Canada? This is not the same old Canada. Destination Canada is working actively to increase the diversity of itineraries available to travelers and travel agents. Indigenous tourism is going to be a huge differentiator and a tremendous competitive advantage moving forward. In this world where people are talking about authenticity and transformative travel, this connection to authentic indigenous experiences sets Canada apart. It’s something that is very healing for us as a nation, and we’ve dedicated increasing space to that type of product over the past three years.
What has contributed most to the positive progress made by Destination Canada in recent years?Three key things have contributed to Destination Canada’s success as a marketing organization. We have a lot more advanced data to make marketing decisions, we’re enjoying a much stronger alignment between our partners from a joint marketing perspective, and we’re using new technology that wasn’t even viable five years ago to target consumers.
What are Destination Canada’s Canadian Signature Experiences? Canadian Signature Experiences are a collection of once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences that are only available in Canada. There are more than 200 Canadian Signature Experiences from every part of the country. These experiences differentiate Canada from other destinations, and they include some of the country’s most innovative products for international visitors. This program makes it easier for the travel trade industry to sell more of Canada.
Will the plan to legalize marijuana in Canada by July 2018 create new tourism opportunities?We’re not going to ask people to come to Canada because we might be legalizing pot. We want people to come to Canada because we are culturally diverse. We are open to other people from around the world and are a safe, accepting place. We don’t care who you want to hold hands with while you’re walking down the street. Canada is a cultural mosaic with incredible scenery and authentic experiences that are unique in the world.
Which specific type of U.S. traveler is most interested in visiting Canada? Canada has experiences for all types of travelers, but we have focused the bulk of our U.S. marketing on targeting Cultural Explorers and Authentic Experiencers ages 25 to 44 in nine major U.S. cities. We developed a system for classifying different types of travelers by their interests, and those types of travelers are the key market for the Connecting America Co-op Marketing Program that has been in place since 2016. This program has certainly contributed to the higher number of visitors we are seeing from the U.S.
What’s the biggest challenge facing Destination Canada at the moment? There’s an old saying that when you’re being chased by a grizzly bear, you don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away — you just have to run faster than the guy next to you. I look over my shoulder at my competitors. Whenever we do something really innovative and cool, one of our competitors does something similar. I have to do something even more innovative the next time. Staying ahead of the bear is the real challenge.
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