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TORONTO — The number of Canadians travelling to the U.S. is up 5%, dodging the Trump Slump and keeping tour operators here upbeat about their sales volumes to U.S. destinations, with double-digit increases in some cases. But with tourism to the U.S. from just about every one of its other key source markets down, will U.S. marketing dollars fly to other international markets and leave Canada in the lurch?
Stats from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI) show a decrease in visitors to the U.S. on a global scale, with declines in arrivals from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The only source market to post an increase to the U.S.? Canada, at 5%+.
With so many inbound markets showing decreases, and with Canada as one of the very few on the plus side, should tour operators here be concerned that the Canadian market won’t get as much attention or budget from U.S. partners as dollars shift to struggling source markets?
Brand USA says no. “I would first say the travel trade should not be concerned, but instead be optimistic,” says Tom Garzilli, Brand USA’s Chief Marketing Officer.
Garzilli says that “regardless of efforts we undertake anywhere in the world, Canada will continue to be a critical part of our consumer and trade marketing effort. We will continue to work closely with our Canadian travel trade partners to provide training, product development and marketing support.”
The Discover America Canada AGM is coming up Feb. 15 in Toronto, with two speakers on the schedule including Brand USA’s new Toronto-based Regional Director, Karly Melo.
Canada is the number one market for inbound visitation to the United States and Brand USA will maintain its marketing efforts in the Canadian market in 2018 and beyond, Garzilli adds.
“Many Canadians have travelled to the United States, but there’s so much of the country to be explored that travellers return frequently and repeatedly.”
Insight Vacations President Brad Ford says Insight Vacations Premium Journeys and Luxury Gold escorted journeys to the U.S. have been enhanced for 2018.
“Sustained growth momentum can only be achieved through a sustained marketing strategy, and we would definitely encourage Brand USA to consider a steadfast support to producing sales channels,” says Ford.
Ford adds: “There is always concern that Canadian clients and travel agents have the United States travel opportunities top of mind … We have definitely seen that marketing efforts correlate to stoking the consumer travel dream stage, which ultimately produces demand and sales.”
Ford says the momentum for clients looking to explore the U.S. National Parks continues into 2018, stoked by the 100th anniversary celebrations in 2016. “The U.S. National Parks continue to be a top destination trend for 2018 and our clients want to see more than the Grand Canyon,” says Ford.
Meanwhile at Trafalgar, U.S. sales are up 10% year-over-year.
“Canadians want to visit the U.S. from coast to coast with a sense of adventure like the ‘Great American Road Trip’,” says Trafalgar Canada President, Wolf Paunic.
Trafalgar offers over 30 guided vacations to the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii with some combined North American itineraries. The company anticipated destination trends in 2018 including the U.S. National Parks and also the Southern U.S. Trafalgar has a new 17-day ‘Spirit of the South’ journey where clients experience an evening with Muhammad Ali’s brother during a Be My Guest experience at the boxing legend’s childhood home museum, and a four-course dinner with a former award-winning Four Seasons chef.
The U.S. South plays a big role in Brand USA’s second giant-screen film, ‘America’s Musical Journey’, scheduled to debut in February and roll out to international markets, including in Canada, throughout 2018. Cities in the spotlight in ‘America’s Musical Journey’ include New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis in the South, as well as Chicago, New York City and more.
“We look forward to sharing the film with the Canadian market soon,” says Garzilli.
Stéphanie Bishop, Managing Director for the Globus family of brands, says the company’s sales to the U.S., where both Globus and Cosmos have tours, are consistent with last year.
“If anything we are seeing an additional uptick in sales on our U.S. East and South itineraries,” says Bishop.
Much of this can be attributed to the strengthening Canadian dollar, making pre-payment of as many vacation elements in Canadian dollars appealing, she adds.
Globus’ U.S. trips in 2018 include ‘Music Cities: Nashville & Memphis’ and a ‘Southern Charms’ tour into Georgia and South Carolina.
Cosmos, the company’s value-priced escorted tour arm, has launched three new tours to the U.S.: Alaskan Highlights, an America’s National Parks tour and an Historic Train Journey through Colorado and New Mexico.