TORONTO — The overwhelming message at yesterday’s Discover America Day was that the United States is open for business, ready to welcome Canadians, and that nothing – not even a hurricane or a so-called ‘Trump Slump’ – can keep the country down for long.
Now in its 11th year, the Discover America Day event is hosted by Discover America Canada, the only Canadian-based organization sanctioned by the U.S. Travel Association, which aims to increase awareness of, and build Canadian tourism to the United States. This year’s event took place on Sept. 25 in Toronto’s Arcadian Court, and featured 28 U.S. destinations, suppliers and travel partners, all of whom were optimistic about inbound tourism in the coming year.
According to recent statistics from Brand USA, which was a major sponsor of the event, much of this traffic is expected to come from Canada.
“Canada remains the #1 source market for inbound travel to the United States. In 2015, 20.7 million Canadians visited the USA, and spent $22.7 billion during their trips here – second only to the Chinese,” said Christopher L. Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA.
The organization also reported that Canadians made almost 24.5 million overnight trips to the United States and other destinations during the first three-quarters of 2016. Of this total, an estimated 19.5 million trips were in the leisure category. Compared to 2015, overseas leisure trips increased 2.5%, though leisure travel to the U.S. declined 9.3% – largely due to a weakened Canadian dollar.
But Patrice Bell, Director – Travel Trade Partnerships for Brand USA, said that Canadian visitation is on an upswing. “In the first six months of 2017, Canadian travel was up over 5%,” which shoots down any theories about a possible ‘Trump Slump’. “Canada is a very important market – it makes up 30% of overall visitation to the United States.”
Thompson also noted that a significant trend in the Canadian market is the “graying of its population.” According to CIA World Factbook 2016, 58% of Canadians are now 55 years old and over. These adults are 40% more likely to travel out of the country compared to younger Canadians.
“This is who we should be marketing to,” said Bell.
Here are a few updates from top destinations and suppliers:
- The area was largely spared from Hurricane Irma’s worst, sustaining minimal superficial damage. Within just a few days, hotels, restaurants and businesses were back to business as usual.
- 1,000 new hotel rooms came online in 2016, and another 1,000 rooms are set to open by year’s end. Notable openings include Hyatt Place St. Petersburg Downtown on Sept. 26, which will be St. Pete’s tallest building at 15 storeys and 175 rooms, and the Fenway Hotel, due to open in March 2018 following a US$11 million renovation. In 2016, the 230-room Opal Sands Resort, sister property of the luxurious Sandpearl, and the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach – the second biggest hotel on Clearwater Beach with 343 rooms – celebrated their grand openings.
- St. Pete/Clearwater boasts the largest craft beer scene in the state. The St. Pete/Clearwater Craft Beer Trail runs north to south from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg and features 33 craft breweries. Visitors can explore with the ‘Gulp Coast’ Craft Brewery Passport, which comes complete with maps, tour information and descriptions for all 33 breweries. GulpCoast.com.
- Myrtle Beach kicked off its annual ’60 More Days of Summer’ campaign on Sept. 1, featuring a myriad of wellness and adventure offerings. Special offerings of the fall season include complimentary weekly beach yoga and meditation zones, as well as wellness-focused packages and deals at top area resorts. These include a US$200 spa credit with a minimum two-night stay at the newly renovated Marriott at Grande Dunes, and a facial, massage and daily breakfast with a two-night minimum stay at Marina Inn at Grande Dunes.
- The Broadway at the Beach entertainment and attraction complex is undergoing major changes as it enters its 21st year. The former Celebrity Square district is being transformed into a historic-looking warehouse district, while all buildings will also be refaced with brick eaves.
- “Myrtle Beach has matured and evolved over the last decade,” said Kimberly Hartley, Canadian/International Account Manager at Visit Myrtle Beach. “The area is a lot more sophisticated, with more elegant looking buildings, spas and fine dining restaurants. It’s more of a well-rounded, year-round destination now.”
- New lodging properties opening in the next year include the ultra-luxe Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach and the new boutique Bristol Hotel adjacent to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Two new properties are already open: Hotel Indigo, Alexandria on the waterfront and The Main in Norfolk.
- This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Urbanna Oyster Festival, taking place on Nov. 3-4. This is America’s oldest oyster festival, which highlights the state’s eight oyster regions and the Virginia Oyster Trail.
- Virginia Tourism Corporation has launched virginia.org/lgbt to showcase Virginia as a great destination for LGBT travellers. The new site features itineraries, LGBT-friendly businesses, and a welcome message from the Governor.
- Kissimmee suffered minimal damage from Hurricane Irma, with no flooding reported. According to Denise Graham, Account Manager at Experience Kissimmee, it was “business as usual within two days.”
- A total of 8.2 million Canadians visit Kissimmee annually. In April 2017, there was a 16% uptick in Canadian visitation, representing a 5% year-over-year growth.
- 56% of all visitors in July 2017 stayed in vacation home rentals, which are commissionable and bookable through major tour operators like TravelBrands. According to Graham, these are much cheaper than hotels, and are particularly enticing since home rentals are not permitted in Orlando.
- The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is back, running from Aug. 31 to Nov. 13. It celebrates international cuisines and cultures with concerts, cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs and more.
- Opening this fall, the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens is a sustainable winery and microbrewery. Surrounded by botanical gardens, the winery will also feature a bistro, tours, tastings and over 3,000 square feet of meeting space for meetings and weddings.
- ‘Goblins & Giggles Getaway Weekends’ at Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center are back, running on weekends until Oct. 29. Guests can take part in a Halloween Hide & Seek scavenger hunt and enjoy a Wicked Awesome Pool Party and more.
- Within a one-year period, Charlotte – North Carolina’s largest city – is on track to see a 20% increase in hotel rooms. These come courtesy of hotels like The Ivey’s Hotel, a 42-room boutique property featuring reclaimed 17th-century wood from France for flooring, and the InterContinental, coming in 2019 and representing North Carolina’s first InterContinental-brand property featuring 250 rooms and a five-storey theatre.
- Opening in November will be Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Charlotte, a luxury-high-rise featuring 216 rooms and an indoor/outdoor rooftop bar. Also from Kimpton, an intimate boutique hotel in the stately Dilworth neighbourhood will open, date TBD.
- A new tower atop Uptown Charlotte’s EpiCentre dining and entertainment complex will be home to two Marriott brands: a 182-room AC Hotel and a 120-suite Residence Inn.
- Asheville’s tallest high-rise and three foundry buildings will be renovated into a 92-room hotel in spring 2018 as part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. The inn will incorporate two new buildings and feature a 100-seat restaurant, luxury spa and fitness centre, lounge with library and fireplaces.
- Opening last month, the new Kimpton is located adjacent to Denver’s iconic Union Station. The new 199-room hotel features 8,300 square feet of meeting space, including a street-level patio and rooftop patio, a 2,000 square-foot fitness center and two chef-driven restaurants and bars.
- Opening in November, Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn in Boulder will feature a combined 375 rooms and 9,500 square feet. The properties will offer two price points at a single site, as well as what will be the largest hotel-ballroom in Boulder.
- In the heart of Colorado’s Wine Country, the Wine Country Inn in Palisade is offering a stay and ski package. The package includes a king room, two lift tickets to Powderhorn Mountain Resort, 10% off lessons, an afternoon wine reception and a wine country breakfast. Prices start at US$225 per night.
- In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Houston is once again “open for business”, with “95% of Houston hotels already open,” said Rosalyn Hunter, PR Director for Texas Tourism. “We need to get the word out that much of the state was never affected, and that the main tourist regions in Houston are back up and running.”
- In 2016, 498,500 Canadians visited Texas, up 10% over 2015. This will likely continue to increase with Air Canada’s new nonstop air routes: Vancouver to DFW, Toronto to San Antonio, and Montreal to DFW.
- In Houston, more than 800 hotel rooms will be added in prominent neighbourhoods like Downtown, Energy Corridor and Uptown. These include the 225-room Hotel Alessandra, the 158-room Hotel ZaZa Memorial City, the 225-room Le Meridien-Downtown, and the 250-room The Post Oak.
- Downtown Dallas’ historic Statler Hilton hotel will soon be flying the Hilton flag again after a US$255 million redevelopment. The 59-year-old landmark hotel will open this fall.
- In 2018, Virgin Hotels will open a 200-room hotel in the growing Design District. The $80 million lifestyle property will cater to the savvy traveller, offering free Wi-Fi, cancellation and late checkout and a complimentary social hour. It’s the fourth planned Virgin Hotels property in the U.S.
- Opening last October, NLand Surf Park is the only inland surfing destination in North America for surfers and wave sport enthusiasts. The lagoon features 11 surfing areas with four levels and is self-sustaining with rainwater.
- In 2018, San Antonio will celebrate its 300th anniversary with year-long events and activities. Festivities kick off on Dec. 31, 2017 with a downtown celebration and fireworks, and will continue throughout the year with a big focus on Commemorative Week in the first week of May.
- The JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa has completed phase II of its summer poolside enhancement program with the addition of six new, luxury cabanas. The 120 square-foot private cabanas has its own private attendant, chaise lounge chairs, sofa seating, misting fan, refrigerator with complimentary bottled water and more.
- Hotel Valley Ho in downtown Scottsdale has revamped its rooms and suites in The Tower. Completed in September, the rooms feature new mid-century-inspired elements including lighting, décor, flooring and millwork.
- Prescott has been named the Best Destination in the State of Arizona for Nature Lovers by Expedia.com’s Viewfinder travel blog. The article cited the 1.25 million acres of National Forest, 16 parks, three lakes and miles of trails.