Destination marketing organization for the United States, Brand USA, hosted Focus On Canada on Thursday (Feb. 4), its first event of the year on the new Brand USA Global Marketplace platform.
Looking ahead to the recovery of cross-border travel, the virtual event underscored the importance of the Canadian market in tourism’s early recovery.
“We in the U.S. look at our neighbours to the north and I think we look at family,” he said in his opening remarks. “We share a border, and it’s the largest border we share, but it’s so much more than that.” said Christopher L. Thompson, Brand USA president & CEO.
Thompson went on to highlight the importance of the Canadian market, stating, “it’s not just the great affinity we have with our Canadian friends, Canada is our largest source market."
In 2019, prior to the COBVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. had 21 million visitors.
"So of course it makes all the sense in the world that our first event in the new year, where we see the glimmer of light getting brighter, would be a focus on Canada," said Thompson.
GoUSA TV on GO Transit
Thompson revealed GoUSA TV—Brand USA’s flagship connected TV channel featuring travel content showcasing the USA’s must-see places, great outdoors, foodie hot spots, and amazing road trips—will debut later this year on GO Transit’s new GO Wi-Fi Plus free entertainment portal later this year.
“Our job at Brand USA is to be our nation’s storytellers," said Thompson. "To bring enjoyable, entertaining content and make it available to international travellers 24/7, 365, and this exciting, new partnership helps us further that promise.”
Canada's affinity for digital video and GoUSA TV was supported by Tracy Lanza, Brand USA senior vice president of integrated marketing.
“Canada is the number one audience for GoUSA TV,” she said, “and has been from almost the very beginning. And, we are absolutely thrilled to reach even more viewers connecting travellers to a wide range of USA travel experiences.”
Canadians miss travelling
Partners who tuned-in to the virtual event heard Jennifer Hendry, senior research associate of the Conference Board of Canada to share its latest research findings, and to provide an overview of the Canadian traveller.
Hendry pointed out how important the transborder traveller is to both the Canadian and U.S. economies, and how the pandemic has really highlighted this fact.
While acknowledging this crisis is having a much more prolonged impact than any previous shocks, she noted the resiliency of the tourism industry but cautioned that gaining insight into when travel will return continues to be a challenge.
“We’re seeing the planning cycle increasing considerably,” said Hendry. “Obviously travellers need to wait and see what their options are, but they are researching possibilities and are ready to go at the drop of a hat.”
Be open & honest
According to Hendry's latest research, nine in ten Canadians say they miss travelling and that “it's no doubt the road to recovery will be a challenging one,” she said.
“We need to keep in mind that tourism is one of the most resilient sectors, and Canadians are a very savvy market that will take to the skies again," Hendry said.
As markets look ahead to recovery, it’s expected that in Canada's young singles, and newly-coupled millennials will be the group of Canadian travellers that have the most likelihood to travel right off the bat when restrictions are lifted, and borders are opened.
She advised industry partners that communication about virus management will be a reassurance and stressed the importance of “being open and honest” stating “that will help attract Canadian travellers in the future.”
People are researching future trips
Speaking to Canadian search trends, Carol Johnson, senior client principal partner, Tripadvisor, said there is a reason for optimism, pointing to the fact that travel sites remain among the most highly-visited sites on the internet.
In September, travel sites globally captured nearly two billion monthly visits and 14 billion page views, an indication that travellers are continuing to do their research for future trips.
“It’s hopefully comforting to see the U.S. as the number one foreign country viewed by (Tripadvisor) users in Canada, with New York City, Las Vegas, and Central Florida (Orlando) the top three destinations for Canadian travellers,” said said, citing Tripadvisor data.
Avoiding crowds, eyeing nature
More than two-thirds (65%) of Canadian consumers surveyed said the ability to avoid crowded places while travelling is more important in their choice of destination than it was pre-pandemic.
And, more than half (52%) say they are more likely to take an outdoor nature trip than they were before COVID-19 hit.
“Tripadvisor traffic and search data in Canadian sentiment all point in the same direction: up,” said Johnson. “Depending on the speed with which vaccine inoculations progress, and the destinations themselves, a sustained recovery for the global travel sector is closer than ever.”
However she cautioned that, “instead of a V-shaped recovery, imagine a more jagged line of progress where sometimes two steps forward will be met with one step back,” speaking to the travel market’s continued volatility.
The need to rejuvenate
“With the borders still closed, Canadians continue to explore travel as dreamers looking to be inspired,” said Expedia’s Raina Williams, senior regional manager, Canada Expedia Group Media Solutions.
She pointed to proprietary data showing that “84% of Canadians said they travelled for rejuvenation, and we believe that need to rejuvenate is likely to continue and carry into the next 12 months.”
Expedia’s survey data also indicates that Canadians are more likely to travel in the latter half of the year, with 60% saying they would be open to traveling from July to September.
“Even if you’re not ready to welcome visitors, keeping travellers inspired and driving awareness is key to keeping top of mind for when they are ready,” she said.
In his concluding remarks, Thompson summed-up Brand USA’s optimistic outlook stating, “the new year brings new hope for a better tomorrow. As soon as we’re able to travel, we’re so looking forward to opening our arms and welcoming everybody back.”
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