“We have to be positive and optimistic…and be ready for when consumers are ready to travel again,” said Susan Webb, president of Discover America Canada.
It was an afternoon of fist bumping and elbow touching as Canada's leading organization dedicated to promoting travel and tourism to the United States from Canada held its annual general meeting on Wednesday (March 11th), about an hour after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
Welcoming nearly 50 attendees at The University Club of Toronto, Webb kicked things off with a public service announcement, kindly asking guests to greet one another with health and hygiene in mind.
“We have to be mindful today with making sure we don’t kiss and hug each other too much, which, in our industry, is going to be really hard,” Webb said, lightheartedly.
Discover America Canada’s mission is to provide a network forum for the exchange and collaboration of marketing strategies in order to increase awareness of, and build Canadian tourism to the United States.
While she suspected there would be “some pausing on activities” (which there later was, as the Canadian Government requested all Canadians, on March 13th, to cancel or postpone all non-essential travel), Webb stressed that the U.S. is still “one of the destinations that Canadians will be resilient and travel to.”
Webb, in turn, encouraged attendees stay on course with their business plans, be optimistic and be ready for when the market amps up again.
Organizational changes & IPW
Due to lack of submissions, Discover America Canada’s Executive Board will remain the same as last year’s, save for Stephen Fine, who will replace Annika Klint as security treasure.
Webb will stay on as President, with Sana Keller as past president, Denise Graham as vice-president, and Randy Anger, David McClung and Mark Sniderman serving as directors.
One director position is currently open.
Webb said the board has “plans to revive the organization’s bylaws” that will benefit the longevity of the organization.
“We think there’s changes that need to be done,” said Webb, who is also the owner and president of VoX International.
In 2019, Discover American Canada had 62 members - a net gain of eight from 2018, according to its latest membership report.
Updates were also shared on the status of IPW, the U.S.'s largest travel trade show, in regards to whether or not it will go ahead in June.
"IPW is a go. We are expanding early bird registration to April 20th," said Charmaine Singh, president & CEO at Reach Global Marketing, while also recognizing that "this could change."
Malcolm Smith, general manager at IPW, issued a statement days later, on March 16th, announcing that IPW had paused appointment requests in response to the changing nature of COVID-19 and its impact on the U.S. border.
"Our hearts are with our travel community as you brace for the very challenging impacts you are experiencing to your businesses and workforce all over the country and world," Smith wrote in an email.
Smith said he would issue an update about the status of IPW no later than April 3rd and that the team is "looking at all scenarios to preserve this event for 2020."
The AGM switched gears by welcoming guest speaker Liz Fleming, a travel journalist with fifteen years of experience who is the new host of Liz Fleming Travels, an iHeart Radio travel talk show.
Entertaining, fun and informative, Fleming gave attendees – the majority of whom represent U.S. travel and tourism brands – her take on ways to effectively work with travel media.
The journalist also didn’t shy away from address “the big C-word,” that being coronavirus.
“This is perhaps the biggest challenge that any of us have faced in our travel career. But it’s not the first, and it won’t be the last,” Fleming told attendees.
She referenced 9/11, and “how we thought it would stop travel dead in its tracks.”
“And it did for a while,” she said, “but then we pulled it together because we found the courage to move on.”
She added: “The important thing now is to deal with reality and be ready to make the most of the better days ahead when they arrive.”
Later, destination marketing veteran Greg Marshall shared a similar sentiment with PAX, advising travel agents to “hold their clients close” so that when travel returns, their clients will as well.
“Clients will feel their agents had their best interests, and not their dollar, top of mind,” he said.
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