CALGARY — With a record number of 1,840 attendees, Rendezvous Canada 2017 in Calgary was the place to boast about many successes, including increasing visitor numbers to Canada in 2016. As Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger said, “Canada can deliver on any experience.”
Destination Canada CEO David F. Goldstein opened the annual travel trade conference, which took place this year from May 9-12, with words of gratitude for his fellow travel industry partners, saying that tourism is the bright spark in the Canadian economy. Thanks to recent investment from the Federal Government, the low loonie and the marketing successes leading to Canada’s 150th anniversary this year, tourism is important to Canada’s bottom line, currently bigger than agriculture, forestry and mining.
“There is a new spirit and interest in Canada,” said Goldstein, who elaborated on the increases from a wide variety of countries, such as 17% from the United Kingdom, 24% from China, 10% from USA and 12% from Germany. Two markets to watch include Australia, with a 16% increase in 2016, and Mexico, which increased 5% before the U.S. election and the elimination of the visa on Dec. 1, 2016. Also, Mexico had a bump of 70% in visitors in December 2016 compared to December 2015.
Focused on ensuring Canada continues to be a top tier destination for travellers, Destination Canada announced the Northstar 22 Pathfinder program, a collaboration between provincial, territorial and municipal destination marketing boards to make 22 the magic number. By 2022, the 10 provinces, three territories and eight cities (Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Quebec City and Halifax) are hoping to achieve $22 billion and 22 million visitors with combined tourism marketing at international trade shows and with foreign marketing plans.
On the trade show floor, Calgary’s white hat hospitality was in evidence, thanks to memorable events such as a mini-Stampede luncheon, a showcase of the city’s annual celebration of cowboy culture and an evening event at recently opened Studio Bell at the National Music Centre. The new facility features five floors of Canadian music history and memorabilia, food and drink from Calgary restaurants, brewers and distillers and multiple performance spaces with Calgary bands entertaining attendees.
With marketing and sales representatives meeting with over 500 buyers from 28 countries here are some of the highlights:
- Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada: Debuting three years ago at RVC, Aboriginal tourism partners exhibiting have doubled each year, with its membership offering a wide variety of tourist options that encompass culture, art, cuisine, wilderness and adventure. Within the 11 nations that make up the Quebec Aboriginal Tourism, visitors can experience polar bear and whale watching in the northern regions, Aboriginal cuisine or the Akwesasne Pow-Wow, the largest pow wow gathering in Canada located an hour from Montreal every September.
- Canadian Signature Experiences: Two more attractions were added to the list of distinct Canadiana and announced at RVC 2017: Agawa Canyon Tour Train, which follows in the footsteps of the Group of Seven in northern Ontario, and Canyon Sainte-Anne in Quebec, offering a memorable Via Ferrata adventure year round.
- Francophone travel: For those wanting to find tourism services in French in Canada’s provinces or territories, Le Corridor is a new smart phone app that will be launched July 1. Working with partners across Canada, Le Corridor hopes to encourage Francophone travellers to discover more of Canada and help travel agents find tourism options for their French-speaking clients.
- Parks Canada: Six million people from over 190 countries have requested complimentary Canada 150 passes, which provide free access to all of Canada’s national parks. Parks Canada also has many new accommodation options, including cabin/tent OTENTiks, Double Tents for families, Microcubes for duos and Goutte d’O, a water drop shape-inspired tent, in addition to yurts and traditional tent and RV sites.
- Newfoundland: The Avalon Peninsula is home to Canada’s most recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list: Mistaken Point ecological reserve, which houses the world’s oldest fossil site. As well, the province is working with its French neighbour, the islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon, which recently received $26 million to update and promote tourism.
- Solstice Destinations: The newest Canadian luxury hotel brand is based in Vancouver and will debut its first lodge property in Yellowknife, NWT in August 2018. The five-star property had a model suite on site at RVC for attendees to tour. The lodge will be the first in Canada dedicated to luxury and viewing the Aurora Borealis.