TORONTO — As travel advisors well know, prices are up, and staff shortages continue to make hold times, airport lineups and flights a challenge.
Nevertheless, “people are still travelling,” Raina Williams, Senior Regional Manager – Canada, Expedia Group Media Solutions, told attendees at yesterday’s Discover America Day – Canada event.
Taking place at Arcadian Loft in downtown Toronto, this year’s DADC was the 13th annual and marked a welcome return for Discover America Canada’s popular in-person event.
Dozens of U.S. cities, states, airlines, attractions and more were represented, ready to showcase all that’s new and noteworthy for the consumer and trade media in attendance.
The day included a half-day Media Marketplace followed by a travel industry luncheon with keynote presentations. DADC is the only marketplace held in Canada that focuses purely on inbound tourism to the U.S.
DADC is the signature annual event for the Discover America Canada Committee, a volunteer organization sanctioned by the U.S. Travel Association whose focus is on expanding the travel /tourism market from Canada to the U.S. Its 40 plus members represent a cross-section of hotels and attractions, airlines and marketing companies who conduct business into the U.S., or represent U.S. destinations.
“PEOPLE ARE STILL TRAVELLING”
Participants at yesterday’s DADC were eager to hear Williams’ insights on industry trends, as bookings continue to soar.
The desire and determination to get out and explore after two pandemic years show the resiliency of the industry, not to mention travel’s value proposition.
“What we’ve seen lately, in the last quarter, is that while prices are rising and operational issues and staffing issues continue to happen, we see that people are still travelling and they’re finding ways to make that travel happen regardless of all of the challenges in front of them,” said Williams.
She added that in the last couple of weeks, “looking week over week, we continue to see that demand momentum and growth, especially when we look at Canadians traveling internationally and more specifically to the U.S.”
Travel advisors swamped with booking requests know that the recovery is ticking along quite nicely right now. But what’s ahead? As ACTA President Wendy Paradis noted at the ACTA Summit in Toronto earlier this week, ACTA is keeping up its advocacy for the retail travel sector as the fall months approach, when caseloads are bound to rise again.
Says Williams: “There are a lot of questions going into Q3. What does that look like for us? There’s a lot of uncertainty. We’re on the rise of flu season. How is that going to play out?”
From Expedia’s data at least, there are positive indicators on the horizon. “When we look at our week over week, we see that continue to grow. But the great part about it is, while we still see 0 – 21 days and 0 – 30 days as a trend for that close-in because of the uncertainty, we’re also starting to see an uptick in long-haul bookings, which is creating more of that 90+ days and 180+ days out,” says Williams. “So we’re seeing a really good balance of that travel window opening itself up, which is getting us closer to our new normal.”
And while long-haul is trending up, transborder travel is a mainstay and continues to stay strong. “We’re excited to see how many Canadians are starting to make their way south of the border,” says Williams.
Another trend is family travel. “During the pandemic, the biggest hit was international family travel. It declined more than any other travelling group. And what we’re seeing in the Q2 data is that international family travel has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and now is the same proportion as it was in 2019, which is about 25%. So it’s really exciting to see family travellers coming back.”
‘INTO AMERICA’S WILD’ NOW IN THEATRES’
Yesterday’s DADC luncheon also included a keynote speech from Native American astronaut John Herrington. The cross-U.S. exploration by Herrington and Alaskan bush pilot and youth activist Ariel Tweto was captured beautifully in ‘Into America’s Wild’, the latest in the series of films promoted by Brand USA and directed by Greg MacGillivray and narrated by Morgan Freeman.
This week’s Discover America Canada events included a screening of ‘Into America’s Wild’ took place Sept. 14 at the Ontario Science Centre’s OMNIMAX Theatre.
Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, Senior Vice-President, Public Affairs, Brand USA, says the film is now playing in select theatres across Canada. But seeing it at the OSC’s IMAX dome was special, he told DADC attendees.
“I had never seen the movie in the dome format before, it was the most immersive experience,” said Wodin-Schwartz, as he introduced Herrington yesterday. “The dome was really really special and I encourage you to head up to the Science Centre and check that out.”