VANCOUVER — Outbound tourism from Canada to international destinations is booming this summer, no doubt fuelled by all that pent-up demand. But domestic tourism is still strong too as more Canadians fall in love with the incredible travel product in their own backyard.
So many Canadians, whether by choice or necessity due to closed borders, vacationed in Canada the past two years. It’s a phenomenon Stacey Thorson, Discover Canada Tours’ co-founder and Director of Operations, saw first-hand during the pandemic and continues to see today.
“Canada is indeed a destination of choice for post-pandemic travellers. We’ve seen increased requests from Canadians, with many smaller groups and also FIT. Safety is still very important for Canadians,” says DCT’s Thorson.
A family-owned and operated Vancouver-based tour company, Discover Canada Tours specializes in quintessential Western Canada travel experiences. DCT was founded in 2005 and currently operates a range of adventures across B.C., Alberta, the Yukon and Canada’s North. DCT’s affiliate brands include Extraordinary Experiences, which just launched new product for the Extraordinary Experiences Collection, offering small escorted tours and self-drive itineraries that immerse travellers into spectacular nature and regional cultures beyond the classic touring experience.
DCT works with travel advisors and pays 10% commission. Travelweek reached out to Thorson to find out more about the company, booking ideas for travel agents and more.
Travelweek: How did the pandemic impact Discover Canada Tours and what are you expecting in terms of bookings and growth for the rest of 2022 and into 2023?
Thorson: “It was a very challenging time for us, as it was for every travel and tourism business. Since the beginning of the pandemic we committed to keeping the majority of our full-time staff employed and we shifted our focus from group tours to offering independent, self-drive trips and private tours.
“We operated several ski tours in the interior B.C. Our five-day premium Rockies tour did very well. It continues to be a top-selling tour! Our Yukon Northern Lights Tour was also extremely popular. We ran four tours at full capacity (groups of 15) mainly with international ESL students and young Canadians.
“We also launched a new day tour division and created many new tours under our Extraordinary Experience collection. We were in fact the only local tour company running day tours last summer and throughout the winter. Since we were still open and operating during the pandemic we were well positioned to operate tours as soon as restrictions were lifted.
Travelweek: How are bookings looking now, and what’s selling especially well for the months ahead?
Thorson: “We have reached 60% of our 2019 numbers. Requests for ski groups for 2023 are coming in already. We’re thrilled! We are anticipating a very good winter 2022/23 and summer 2023 season.
“We’ve taken that time to develop new itineraries showcasing lesser-known destinations. The Extraordinary Experiences caters to more mature travellers looking for intimate experiences to places they may have never visited before. The Inside Passage, Northern BC, Southern Alberta and the Yukon seem to be more in demand. Indigenous travel experiences also. Having said that, our Classic & Premium Rockies Tours remain our top selling tours.
“We’ve also seen a shorter booking pattern and a lot of enquiries for longer tours for the 2023 season. These tours take a little longer to plan since they are slightly longer and a tad more expensive.”
Travelweek: Are you looking to grow the number of bookings you get from travel advisors?
Thorson: “Yes we would definitely like to work with travel advisors and can offer commission and volume incentives.”
Travelweek: What’s your advice for a Canadian travel advisor with a largely Canadian clientele, who wants to sell Canada, but is more accustomed to selling out-of-country destinations?
Thorson: “It’s important to continue educating Canadians of the diversity of experiences available from coast to coast to coast. Western Canada remains a popular destination for Canadians. Active travel in the great outdoors is of great importance in these recovery times.”
Travelweek: Can you suggest special itineraries with DCT that have a big wow factor for Canadian travellers – even those who think they ‘already know’ everything there is to see in Canada?
Thorson: “Our classic and premium Rockies Tours are still the top sellers for those with limited time and budget. The tours for those who think they ‘already know everything’ is our 7-day Hidden Gems Tour, 10-day Hidden Gems and Western Highlights and 11-day Inside Passage.”
Discover Canada Tours is extending a 15% discount on the Inside Passage and Rockies tour departing Vancouver on September 9, 2022, and the Hidden Gems and Western Highlights tour departing Vancouver on September 25, 2022. The offer is valid for bookings up until Aug. 31, 2022. DCT’s website is discovercanadatours.com.