The statistics were as yummy as the braised short rib.
Discover America Canada on Thursday (Oct. 26) held its annual exhibition and lunch event, “Discover America Day,” where the latest data on U.S. travel was shared, shedding light on Canadian attitudes.
Addressing a room full of journalists, tourism boards and marketing companies at Arcadian Lofts in downtown Toronto, Staci Mellman, senior vice-president of integrated marketing at Brand USA, which promotes the United States to the world, unpacked a market snapshot, referencing statistics compiled by the Conference Board of Canada.
In a nutshell, Canada is returning to the U.S. “in a big way,” says Brand USA, as more than 12.2 million Canadians returned home from an overnight transborder trip during the first seven months of 2023, marking a five per cent increase to 2019.
Furthermore, trips by air to and from the U.S. have increased significantly – by 32 per cent compared to 2019.
Transborder lift, this year, is expected to reach about 89 per cent of 2019 levels by the end of this year, Mellman shared.
“And hopefully we'll see a rise in access in the coming years,” she said.
Travel by car, meanwhile, remains lower than it was in 2019 (it’s down by 14 per cent).
“Canada is forecasted to reach about 92 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this year,” Mellman said, adding that in 2024, 58 per cent of forecasted outbound travel from Canada will be to the U.S.
Ready to travel
It’s a good time to talk travel.
Brand USA collects information on traveller sentiment, and according to its latest data, which comes from monthly surveys conducted in 11 markets across Canada, nearly 60 per cent of Canadian respondents say they're likely to take an international holiday within the next 12 months.
If there was a barrier to travel right now, it would be financial constraints, Mellman added.
The United States is the number one country that Canadians want to visit, according to Brand USA, with 45 per cent of likely international travellers selecting the U.S. as their top spot.
Mellman also reviewed some of things that are deterring people from travelling to the U.S. right now.
A desire to visit other places, having already visited the U.S. before, and an unfavourable exchange rate currently rank as the top three deterrents, surveys show.
Brand USA also measures attitudes towards the U.S.
In its latest survey, 57 per cent of respondents expressed a positive attitude towards the country, while just three per cent said they would discourage travellers from visiting, Mellman explained.
Brand USA asked it audiences which word best describes the U.S. as a holiday destination, and the words “diverse,” “energetic,” and “adventurous” stood out most, said Mellman, sharing a word cloud on a slide to illustrate the point.
Connected with Canada
Brand USA “does not take our proximity to Canada for granted,” said Mellman, noting how the organization has double downed on its efforts to serve Canada with a dedicated team.
That team includes Casey Canevari, Brand USA’s senior manager of global trade development for Canada, who attended yesterday’s gathering.
Partnering up with Collette, Brand USA, earlier this year, hosted a six-city Canadian roadshow where it screened its feature film, Into Nature’s Wild, which transports audiences to the hidden wonders of America’s landscapes and ecosystems.
The tour visited cities such as Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Halifax – places “we haven't spent much time in,” Mellman said, noting how the mission, upon completion, engaged with almost 400 travel advisors.
The plan, looking ahead, is for Brand USA to secure more partnerships in Canada with tour operators, consortium and trade associations, Mellman said.
As for consumer activations, Brand USA, this month, launched a new ad spot in Canada, called “Experience It All,” which offers travellers “a preview of the emotions they’re likely to feel and experience in the United States,” Mellman said.
“The experience of travel is not just about the place you visit. It's about how you feel when you're there,” she said.
The campaign targets different profiles, from families to cultural moments to luxury experiences to adventure.
2024 Mega FAM
Brand USA is debuting some “firsts” in 2024, including an Air Canada and United Airlines-backed “Mega FAM,” involving 60 travel advisors (yes, 60), from April 12-19, starting in New York City.
As well, in June 2024, the organization will bring its partners along on a sales mission to Toronto and Montreal, with the option of adding an event in Calgary.
Registration details will be out in the coming months, Mellman said.
U.S. travel is back
Susan Webb, president of Discover America Canada (and president of VoX International), expressed her enthusiasm for the networking event, which gives journalists and influencers an opportunity to connect with tourism boards, in person, and discuss possible collaborations.
This year’s event, which was sponsored by Visit Detroit, Expedia Group, Air Canada, Brand USA and PAX Global Media, welcomed 26 U.S. exhibitors, and “we sold out,” Webb shared.
“U.S. travel by Canadians is coming back and today just shows the enthusiasm of our U.S. partners for promoting their destinations,” Webb told PAX.
Chris Moyer, senior director of communications at Visit Detroit, took a moment to highlight the largest city in Michigan, dispelling negative perceptions that people sometimes have about Detroit, specifically in regards to safety, crime and poverty.
“We haven't solved all of those challenges,” Moyer admitted. However, contrary to what people may think, “Detroit is utterly transformed.”
“Our 2024 reputation is one of cultural fulfillment, excitement and vibrancy,” Moyer said, noting how the UNESCO-labeled “City of Design” is home to one of the oldest jazz clubs in the world.
"We welcome Canadians from every background and from every province."
Access to insight
Not-for-profit Discover America Canada provides a networking forum to exchange 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 exclusive perks, like the latest stats and research from the Conference Board of Canada and Expedia, for example.
“We help our members gain insight,” Webb said.
For more info on Discover America Canada, click here.