Canada looks to attract younger, independent Australian travellers

Atlantic Canada a burgeoning region for growth

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Maureen Riley, Vice President International, Destination Canada

Destination Canada is hoping to lure a younger demographic to the country as part of an effort to curb a decrease in Australian visitor numbers in 2018.

While Canada welcomed a record 21.1 million international arrivals globally, the portion of Australian travellers was down 3% last year from the 2017 result to 349,000. The organisation has responded to this decline with a modest goal: to increase Australian visitors in 2019 by 1%. As of the end of April there’s already been a bounce, with 71,000 Aussies entering the North-American nation, up 5% year-on-year.

Speaking exclusively with LATTE this week in Sydney, Destination Canada’s Vice President International, Maureen Riley said the Australian market remains crucial.

“Australian travellers travel longer and spend more than other markets when they come to Canada,” Riley said. The average length of stay is 18 days in summer and a little over two weeks in winter, while the average spend is just over CA$2,400 per trip.

Statistics Canada figures show signs of growth in 2019

Riley said Destination Canada’s drive in recent years to attract Australians beyond the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta is “starting to see some growth”.

“It’s an interesting challenge because I would assume it’s a similar challenge to getting more people to travel to Perth here in Australia. The point of entry [for most Australians] is Vancouver in western Canada and it’s a big country to travel across.”

“We are starting to see significant growth into Ontario, where we have Toronto and Niagara Falls, and we are starting to see some numbers into Montreal and Quebec City. But there’s even more in Atlantic Canada and that’s where we have, I think, the biggest opportunity for long-term growth.”

Riley said Atlantic Canada is a region lesser-known to tourists but Australians are starting to explore this part of the country for its unique experiences in summer and in the pursuit of the Aurora Borealis in winter.

Another growth opportunity is the “dual nation vacation” itinerary, a phrase used to describe trips that travel through Canada and the United States. “We are starting to see more and more of that emerging,” Riley said.

Traditionally a favoured market from the 50+ demographic, Destination Canada is now preparing to target a younger audience that includes independent travellers.

“We would love to see a younger demographic that we know are more likely to get off-the-beaten-track and explore more of Canada. We are working with a lot of these tour operators to create new itineraries and [new products].”

Destination Canada’s newly adopted brand and tagline, ‘For Glowing Hearts’, is based on the idea that tourism changes people. Specifically, the line refers to a belief that visiting Canada will leave a lasting impression on every traveller’s heart.

“A big piece of that [idea] has to do with connecting with Canadians and then exploring more of what Canada has to showcase. You can have a transformative experience in a city but the real transformation comes when you start interacting with people and the environment around you. That tends to appeal to a younger demographic or travellers that are young at heart, and we need to make sure we are connecting with that specific audience.”

“As we launch our new brand and start to refresh and develop new itineraries, refresh the existing product that is already out there and really showcase more of Canada’s unique selling propositions, we are hopeful that that will start turning the market around,” Riley told LATTE.

The luxury segment of the market is another area Destination Canada is starting to look at more seriously.

“We’ve broken ourselves into two different categories: we look at luxury and we look at legendary. We have some incredible five-star experiences [that] wouldn’t necessarily qualify as five-star accommodation,” Riley explained. She cited the Polar Bear experiences in Churchill, Manitoba as an example of this; while mind-blowing, unique and including a first-class service, the accommodation is on the rustic side.

Elsewhere, the tourist board is also about to reboot the Canada Specialist Program (CSP) which was launched some years ago. Over the next year or so CSP will be “completely overhauled” ahead of a relaunch next summer or autumn.

“Unfortunately we haven’t put a lot of time into further evolving the Canada Specialist Program since its debut so now we are going to start again and rebuild it.”

Riley said the revised CSP would aim to leverage the program against Canada’s greater tourism strategy, focused on cultural, natural and people-based experiences, promoting shoulder-season travel and showcasing Canada’s unique sales proposition.

All destination images supplied by Destination Canada.

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