TORONTO — An overwhelming majority of Canadians – 96% – say they miss travel and are eager to get back to it. And some 69% intend to take a trip this summer, between May and October.
These and other findings from the Conference Board of Canada were the focus of a presentation by Jennifer Hendry, Senior Research Associate, Canadian Tourism Research Institute, The Conference Board of Canada (CBoC), at yesterday’s Discover America Canada meeting.
It was DAC’s annual Market Research Update, and it’s always the best-attended meeting on DAC’s calendar, says VoX International President and DAC board member Susan Webb, thanks to the valuable insights Hendry shares about Canadian traveller intentions particularly to U.S. destinations.
While the latest figures and forecasts are preliminary, Hendry says all indications so far point to 2023 bringing a return to 2019 levels for outbound travel from Canada.
“The situation is improving,” says Hendry, echoing what many in the industry are seeing with a dramatic uptick in inquiries and bookings. “The economy is reopening, and fear levels have subsided. We can see consumer confident rising once again. We are returning to an adjusted normal.”
The exchange rate is also helping.“The Canadian dollar is expected to remain in the 80 cent range [against the U.S. dollar], so that’s positive,” said Hendry.
The fly in the ointment at this point isn’t so much the pandemic, but the financial situation in Canadian households, despite savings for many. “Inflation is out of control,” notes Hendry, adding that people are keeping a closer eye on what they buy. “The pandemic highlighted spending habits for a lot of people.”
THE ‘4 Ps’ INFLUENCING TRAVEL INTENTIONS
According to the CBoC’s figures, while 69% of Canadians say they intend to take a trip this summer, only 24% of Canadians have outbound (i.e. outside of Canada) destinations in their sights. That’s down from one-third pre-pandemic. “So the outbound share is still subdued. But it’s still well above the past two years,” said Hendry.
Travellers are adapting well to the new normal, she adds. Their key must-haves when it comes to booking trips? Flexible change / cancellation policies still reign supreme, followed by COVID caseloads, whether or not a destination requires proof of vaccination, COVID-specific insurance coverage, and health and safety protocols in destination like social distancing and masks.
The biggest influences on travel intentions heading into summer 2022 can be summed up with “the 4 Ps”, says Hendry: Personal connection, Proximity, Pandemic Management, and Price.
TRANSBORDER WILL RECOVER FIRST
DAC members including reps for U.S. tourism boards and attractions as well as suppliers selling the U.S., were no doubt happy to hear Hendry’s next point: that when it comes to outbound travel, transborder trips will recover first.
According to the CBoC stats, 37% say they will visit the U.S. first, up from 32% in the last quarter. And transborder travel accounts for 48% of all intended outbound summer trips. The top three states on Canadian travellers’ wish lists are Florida, California and New York. Hawaii is in fourth position, bumping down Nevada and Arizona.
The CBoC’s snapshot of who’s travelling from where, and why, showed that 79% of U.S. trips are being planned by residents of Ontario, Quebec and B.C. Most were being planned by travellers 25 – 34 years of age, and 55+. More solo travellers say they intend to travel to the U.S. (compared to 2019). And more travellers are planning to either fly direct or drive to their U.S. destination, and a larger share say they plan to stay in a rental property or private home.
Good air access to U.S. destinations is crucial, notes Hendry. “Prior to 2013, 60% of transborder trips were by car,” she says. “That shifted in 2018 and persists today, with multiple short getaways replacing the traditional annual vacation.
The CBoC stats also shed light on corporate travel trends. Perhaps more than any sector of the travel industry, no doubt due to the soaring popularity and usability of video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, corporate travel was decimated by the pandemic. Close to three-quarters (74%) of respondents said they don’t think business travel is as essential as it used to be. And 70% said they don’t think business travel in their organization will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.
The bottom line? Tourism is resilient. And the resources, information and guidance that a travel advisor offers are more in demand than ever. “We’re in a transition phase right now,” says Hendry. “People are uncertain and they’re looking for reassurance and information.”
The CBoC’s website is conferenceboard.ca.
ANTIGEN TESTS FOR U.S. ARRIVALS, AND AN IPW SNEAK PEEK FROM VISIT ORLANDO
Also taking part in yesterday’s DAC meeting were Susan Crystal, who has served as Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto since October 2020.
Asked when the still-in-effect antigen testing requirement for travellers entering the U.S. might be lifted, Crystal said “I wish I knew that too. That’s the CDC. Unfortunately we don’t have any information on that yet. When we do, we will be sure to get it out to you.”
Also on hand for the meeting, Tom Valley, Travel Industry Sales Director, North America for Visit Orlando, offered a sneak peek at the upcoming IPW 2022, taking place June 4 – 8 in Orlando.
Orlando last hosted IPW in 2015, and Valley was a big fan of that event. “It was fantastic. And we’re going to take it to another level this year,” he said.
The opening event on June 5 will take place at EPCOT’s World Showcase in Walt Disney World. On June 7, there’s a Destination Downtown Orlando event. And to close out the show, on June 8 Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure will give IPW delegates a night to remember. More information is at IPWOrlando2022.com.