Saturday,  February 4, 2023  11:01 am

“People are still travelling” despite challenges: trends, insights shared at Discover America Canada event

“People are still travelling” despite challenges: trends, insights shared at Discover America Canada event
From left: Susan Webb, president, Discover America Canada; former NASA astronaut John Herrington; Susan Crystal, Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

“People are still travelling,” said Raina Williams, senior regional manager – Canada at Expedia Group Media Solutions, “and they're finding ways to make travel happen. Regardless of all the challenges in front of them.”

Williams spoke at Discover America Day – Canada at the Arcadian Loft in downtown Toronto on Thursday (Sept. 15), sharing Expedia’s stats and market insights with a room full of travel partners, from airlines to U.S.-based attractions and tourism boards, as well as media.

The day – Discover America Canada’s first in-person exhibition in three years – was held to showcase all that’s new in U.S. travel for consumer and trade media.

A media marketplace featuring 27 partners was held in the morning followed by a luncheon that included special presentations.

Strong demand + return of int'l family travel 

Speaking at lunch, Williams, sharing snapshots of Expedia’s quarterly research, said that despite rising prices and operational issues in travel, consumers are still eager to pack their bags and explore.

“In the last couple of weeks, we continue to see that demand momentum and growth, especially when we look at Canadians travelling internationally, and more specifically, to the U.S.,” Williams said.

Media and partners gather for lunch at Discover America Day – Canada at the Arcadian Loft. (Pax Global Media)

The “great part’ about it, said Williams, is that while Expedia still sees 0 – 21 days and 0 – 30 days as a trend for that close-in because of the uncertainty, it is also starting to see an uptick in long-haul bookings, which is creating more of that 90-plus days and 180-plus days out.

“We’re seeing a really good balance of that travel window opening itself up, which is getting us closer to our new normal and what travel looked like before COVID,” Williams said.

Q2 saw a significant increase in demand for long-haul travel, she said.

“People are feeling more comfortable to go a little bit further. There is a strong demand in Canada for international travel, and very specifically from Canada to the U.S.,” Williams said.

“We're excited to see how many Canadians are starting to make their way south of the border.”

International family travel is on the rebound, says Expedia. (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Another “big emerging trend” Expedia has noticed, quarter over quarter, is that international family travel has recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s really exciting to see that family travel is coming back,” Williams said.

Family travel declined more than any other group during the pandemic, she said.

What Expedia is seeing in its current Q2 data is that international family travel is now the same proportion as it was in 2019 at about 25 per cent.

“Vacation rentals are a big emerging trend,” Williams noted. “And we can tell from vacation rental travellers [that] they spend more and stay longer.”

Lessons from space

Discover America Canada provides a networking forum to exchange marketing strategies and build Canadian tourism to the United States. 

Members are based in Canada and the U.S. and are from all sectors of travel, from DMOs and destinations to attractions and hotels to tour operators, airlines, and rail companies.

Members also gain access to the latest market research thanks to ongoing partnerships with the Conference Board of Canada and Expedia, for example.

Astronaut John Herrington speaks at Discover America Day – Canada at the Arcadian Loft in Toronto. (Pax Global Media)

Thursday’s event welcomed VIP guests, including Susan Crystal, Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto, and former U.S. astronaut John Herrington, who delivered an incredible talk about his career at NASA, sharing anecdotes about spacewalks, lessons learned and gravity-defying footage captured from inside space shuttles.

In 2002, Herrington, notably, became the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly in space.

He, in addition to Alaskan bush pilot and youth activist Ariel Tweto, are featured in a new film series, called Into America’s Wild, promoted by Brand USA, that is directed by Greg MacGillivray and narrated by Morgan Freeman.

Discover America Canada’s events during the week included a screening of Into America’s Wild on Sept. 14 at the Ontario Science Centre’s OMNIMAX Theatre.

Snowbirds are ready to return

Speaking to PAX at Thursday’s luncheon, Susan Webb, president of Discover America Canada (DAC), was ecstatic to see partners reunite in person after years of virtual meetings.  

“The buzz in the room during the media appointments with our exhibitors from all over the United States was really exciting,” Webb said.

Team Discover America Canada gather in Toronto. (Pax Global Media)

Webb, who is also owner and president of VoX International, noted an encouraging trend that she has heard from DAC’s destination partners.

“Hotels are having some of the best average daily rates they've ever had. Occupancy rates are high,” she said.

Webb is confident that the U.S. will continue to be a number one outbound destination for Canadians.

“Canadians can drive there if they’re not yet comfortable with flying,” she said. “And the snowbirds are all ready to go back.”

For more info on Discover America Canada, click here.

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