What we learned at the 10th annual Discover America Day
Christi Braginton and Sana Keller from Virginia Tourism Corporation.

What we learned at the 10th annual Discover America Day

TORONTO — Ten years later and Discover America Day is still as popular – and relevant – as ever. The annual trade show, now in its tenth year, recently took place in Toronto and included over 25 suppliers from across the United States, all of which conveyed one common message: the U.S. is open for business and ready to welcome Canadians with open arms.

According to Patrice Bell, Director-Travel Trade Partnerships for Brand USA, a total of 20.7 million Canadians visited the United States in 2015, which represents one-third of all visitation. From January-June 2015, the U.S. raked in 15.6 million overnight trips, 12.8 million of which were by leisure travellers. And although this figure is slightly down from 2014 numbers (5.9% decrease), Bell forecasts a 3% increase in traffic between 2016-2020.

Here is an overview of updates from top suppliers:

Air Canada

Air Canada will be launching new daily year-round, non-stop service between Vancouver and Dallas-Fort Worth beginning Feb. 5, 2017. It will be operated by Jazz Aviation LP under the Air Canada Express brand with 75-seat, Wi-Fi equipped CRJ-705 aircraft, offering both Business and Economy cabins. The airline also launched new U.S. trans-border flights from Vancouver this year to Chicago, San Jose and San Diego. Air Canada operates more non-stop flights on more routes between the U.S. and Canada than any other carrier, with more than 400 non-stop flights per day on 112 routes to and from 55 U.S. and seven Canadian airports.

Orlando

The #1 destination in the U.S. – Orlando – had a huge year in terms of new attractions. Mako, Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest roller opened, opened at SeaWorld Orlando earlier this year. ‘Frozen Ever After’, a new ride based on the film ‘Frozen’, opened on June 21 at Epcot, while ‘Skull Island: Reign of Kong’ also made its debut at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. As for new hotels, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort made a big splash when it opened its doors on July 14, featuring 1,000 rooms and suites. Construction of Universal Orlando Resort’s new waterpark, Volcano Bay, is now underway, scheduled to be completed in 2017, plus plans for a $1.3 billion train station and 2,500-space parking garage has started at Orlando International Airport, slated for completion by year’s end.

Visit Orlando has also launched its ’25 Family-Friendly Attractions Under $25’ promotion, which offers leisure travellers and families a myriad of budget-conscious experiences. For a full list, go to VisitOrlando.com.

Atlantic City

In Atlantic City, Harrah’s Atlantic City has completed construction on a $250 million waterfront Conference Center, the largest convention centre-hotel complex from Baltimore to Boston with two 50,000 square-foot ballrooms. Also, Tropicana has finalized a $50 million renovation that included boardwalk enhancements, hotel room upgrades and property expansion. Further, the hotel recently announced a $25 million renovation of 500 hotel rooms in its Havana Tower.

San Antonio

In 2018, San Antonio – the United States’ seventh largest city – will celebrate its 300th birthday with a year-long calendar of special events, particularly in the first week of May during anniversary week. The city recently completed a $358 million project to lengthen the River Walk from three to 15 miles, connecting downtown with museums, cultural districts and the historic Pearl Brewery to the north.

san-antonio-river-walk

San Antonio’s River Walk.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach continues to rank as one of the fastest-growing family destinations in the U.S., attracting more than 17 million visitors each year. After an expansion in 2013, the Myrtle Beach International Airport completed an interior renovation of the original terminal at the end of 2015, adding an additional five gates. New hotels on the agenda include a 530-room Buchanan Hotel, slated for completion by 2017, and a new Homewood Suites Oceanfront Resort & Conference Center, the first and only Homewood Suites that is an oceanfront property.

Virginia

Virginia has long been known for its role in American history. But many visitors will be surprised to learn that the state has a burgeoning film tourism industry. Some of the more notable Hollywood films that have been shot in Virginia include ‘Lincoln’, ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘Dirty Dancing.’ In fact, Mountain Lake Lodge where ‘Dirty Dancing’ was filmed still offers Dirty Dancing packages during summer months that include dance lessons and competitions. Aside from film tourism, Virginia is also home to over 280 wineries, making it the fifth largest wine producer in the U.S., and over 150 craft breweries.

Mountain Lake Lodge

Credit: Mountain Lake Lodge.

WestJet

This year, WestJet launched new service between Boston and Toronto and Halifax. Its Toronto-Nashville service will increase from 4x/week to daily starting Oct. 29. Its strong winter program to the U.S. includes flights from Calgary and Edmonton to the Hawaiian islands onboard Boeing 767s.