Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.
While air travel to the U.S. remains strong, fewer Canadians are planning on travelling south of the border this summer, said Jennifer Hendry of the Conference Board of Canada.
Hendry was one of two speakers at this week’s meeting of Discover America Canada’s Toronto chapter, which welcomed members for an afternoon of education and networking. Hendry was joined by The Torstar Group’s Ed Cassavoy, who provided members with a glimpse into the evolution of media outlets in the digital age.
Also joining the meeting was Colin Skerritt, Brand USA’s newly-appointed Canadian director, who told attendees that plans are in the works for both Brand USA and Discover America to work more closely together.
“The focus of our efforts on the trade side is to build relationships with the travel industry,” Skerritt said, “as well as promoting destinations in the U.S. that aren’t well-known to travellers.”
Mixed news for U.S. travel
According to Hendry, two main factors are affecting Canadians’ U.S. travel plans this year.
A continued slump in the U.S.-Canada exchange rate is roughly parallel with Canadians’ U.S. travel intentions this summer, Hendry said, adding that the exchange rate has particularly affected car travel to U.S. destinations. Of those who said they would travel to the U.S. this summer, only one-fifth have actually booked, Hendry said.
In addition, many Canadians surveyed by the Conference Board of Canada cited what Hendry described as “the current political climate” in the U.S. as a possible deterrent to travel; among the statistics presented during the event were that four in 10 Canadian travellers surveyed were planning to avoid the U.S. for the next couple years.
However, Hendry pointed out that neither the potential ‘Trump Effect’ nor the weak loonie has affected air travel to the U.S., which has remained strong despite the value of the Canadian dollar. According to the Conference Board, air travel to states including California, New York and Illinois has actually increased in recent years.
And snowbird travellers in particular have been insulated from these factors, Hendry said, a market that has grown by 190 per cent since 2000 as more boomers enter their golden years.
With millennials seeking experiences over goods, Hendry advised U.S. destinations that the key to drawing this growing demographic is social media, adding that not only are younger travellers seeking “Instagram-able” destinations, but that many have based their travel plans on a destination they discovered via social media.
In addition, discounts for Canadian travellers have also helped boost tourism numbers in recent years.
“Ultimately, it’s all driven by dollars – and all Canadians love deals,” she said.
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