USA’s road to recovery: Updates from Discover America Canada & destination partners

USA’s road to recovery: Updates from Discover America Canada & destination partners

TORONTO — When it comes to travel and tourism recovery, it appears that the United States is well ahead of the rest of the world.

According to the latest research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the U.S. Travel & Tourism sector is on track to see year-over-year growth of 35.6% this year, significantly outpacing the year’s overall global tourism recovery. The outlook is even brighter for 2022, with the travel sector in the U.S. expected to grow by another 28.4%.

“Our research shows that while the global travel & tourism sector is slowly beginning to recover, the U.S. is recovering faster than many other regions,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO. “The U.S. opening its borders and easing restrictions to major source markets will provide a massive boost to economies.”

To help keep this momentum going, Discover America Canada hosted its ‘Ready, Set, Go: Where Are We Now?’ virtual conference yesterday, Nov. 18, for media and travel industry professionals, featuring updates from top destination partners and keynote speakers representing The Conference Board of Canada, Snowbird Advisor, Air Canada and more.

With the United States reopening borders on Nov. 8, and Canada’s federal government expected to confirm today the elimination of mandatory PCR testing for short trips of less than 72 hours, Susan Webb, President of Discover America Canada says that a sense of normalcy is finally starting to return.

“Every day we’re getting more positive news and we actually have some in-person events planned for 2022. We’ll be holding our AGM, which is necessary for any association, on Feb. 24 and we’re planning to have Media Day in Toronto on April 11. We’re also really excited that IPW will be in Orlando next year, with Kissimmee hosting our Canadian delegation party on June 5. Then, we’re also looking at in the fall to do some travel trade training events in Toronto and Montreal, with plans for the following year to do other cities like Vancouver and Calgary then possibly rotating cities every year as part of a roadshow for Discover America Canada members,” says Webb.

Here are additional highlights from yesterday’s conference:


THE CONFERENCE BOARD OF CANADA

Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impede travel activity for Canadians, the situation is improving, says Jennifer Hendry, Senior Research Associate at The Conference Board of Canada. The organization’s recent Winter Travel Intentions survey, conducted in November 2021, found that half of respondents plan to take a leisure trip between November 2021 and April 2022, which is still a smaller share than what was recorded at the start of the 2019-2020 season but significantly higher than last winter when just 36% of respondents reported positive travel intentions.

In 2020, 6 in 10 Canadians were either unsure or definitely not planning a trip, with two-thirds of those respondents specifically pointing to the pandemic for their lack of plans. “But fast forward a year and three, maybe four pandemic waves later and less than half of Canadians are now not planning any travel this winter or are unsure of their plans,” says Hendry. “The current share of the undecided is similar to what it was before the pandemic so the uncertainty in the market is definitely. COVID-related factors are still the primary travel deterrent, but the share pointing to this barrier has declined – it’s now 22% for the current season whereas it was 42% a year ago.”

With regards to the United States specifically, Henry says that the global uncertainty along with slow vaccine rollouts in many countries give short-haul destinations an edge.

“Canadian travellers are really familiar with places in the U.S. and are feeling much safer about transborder activity; 36% of respondents said they’re most likely to take a transborder trip first. So barring a new COVID wave this winter, shares will likely continue to trend upward as Canadians look to transborder destinations as their first choice of international travel,” says Hendry.

She adds: “In all, 86% of Canadians miss travelling and are eager to get back to it. Our current projections suggest activity this winter for transborder trips will amount to 40%-50% of pre-pandemic volume, which is definitely better than the 5% of activity we saw last winter. So it’s not a tidal wave of travellers by any means, but activity is finally beginning to recover and that’s good news across the board.”

Other survey findings include:

  • As travel restrictions ease the borders reopen, just 15% of respondents without travel plans identified closures or restrictions as their primary barrier, about half the share reported earlier this year
  • On the other hand, entry requirements including pre-arrival and pre-departure testing is now the top barrier at 22%, a larger share than previously reported
  • At the same time, vaccination requirements is now an issue for just 7% of respondents, compared to 19% at the beginning of the year before vaccines were widely available
  • 85% of travellers somewhat or strongly agree that limited travel activity to those who are fully vaccinated makes them feel safer about taking an international trip
  • 83% of respondents said they’ll check vaccination rates of the local population at their destination before booking, with 79% agreeing that a low vaccination rate at their preferred destination would prompt them to travel elsewhere


AIR CANADA

When Canada reopened its borders to U.S. travellers on Aug. 9, a milestone day for Air Canada, the airline also announced a significant return of its international network, which included many flights to the United States. And on Oct. 21 when Canada finally dropped its blanket travel advisory against all non-essential travel outside of Canada for fully vaccinated Canadians, Air Canada was there again with available seats and affordable price points, says Timothy Liu, Managing Director, Sales Planning & Effectiveness, Air Canada.

“Since Nov. 8, Canadians have been permitted to enter the United States by air, land and sea for non-essential purposes and we welcome that news greatly and, at the same time, significantly expanded our transborder network to more U.S. destinations,” he says. “We continue to rebuild our network as the major transborder carrier to the United States from Canada.”

Liu highlighted various new routes including Vancouver to Orange County, Quebec City to Orlando, and Quebec City to Fort Lauderdale, “providing our customers with more choices and our travel agency partners with more itineraries to sell.”

Though optimism is high for transborder recovery, Liu warned of ongoing challenges that the airline and air travellers must be mindful of, namely the Delta variant and potential future waves of COVID-19.

“Also, the cost of and the various testing requirements and protocols for travel to different markets are confusing to our customers, which is why we work closely with government entities to make sure we have the most transparent information available,” says Liu. “The labour shortages that are being faced by various industries across the world, and economic uncertainties such as inflation, rising fuel prices and supply chain issues are also things to keep in mind and continue to monitor.”


SNOWBIRD ADVISOR

“Things are really rebounding,” says Stephen Fine, President of Snowbird Advisor, citing positive indicators from the association’s June 2021 survey. An overwhelming 92% of snowbird respondents said that they plan to travel this year, with just 2% saying they will not travel and 6% still undecided.

“This year, we’re almost going to see a full recovery for the snowbird season, which is fantastic. We’ve been anticipating for a while that the snowbird demographic would be the fastest demographic to recover when it comes to travel,” says Fine.

From the June survey, which notably was conducted prior to the Nov. 8 reopening of the U.S. border, 73% of respondents said they plan on travelling between September to December, while 21% plan to get away between January and March. Fine says that while some snowbirds may have delated their trips by a few weeks until after the Nov. 8 reopening, “we see no reason why departure dates would differ from what the survey results were.”

In terms of duration of stay, 69% of respondents hope to vacation for 3-6 months, 24% for 1-3 months, and just 7% planning to stay away for less than one month.

“One trend that we’re seeing is that while many snowbirds normally travel back and forth one or more times over the winter between Canada and their destination, they’re now going to their destination this year and stay put the whole time, which might affect airlines and air travel,” adds Fine.

Notably, Fine says that from the day the United States announced the reopening of the land border on Nov. 8, the association saw a “big spike” in travel insurance inquiries and sales, indicating it was a key factor for many snowbirds this year. He adds that an additional spike in insurance sales occurred when the CDC qualified mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines as fully vaccinated.


DESTINATION HIGHLIGHTS

Prior to yesterday’s panel discussion, Brand USA’s top destination partners provided brief updates of new offerings and highlights.


Myrtle Beach Area CVB:

  • Myrtle Beach is offering free PCR testing for Canadian travellers at various locations throughout the destination, including at pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, and Conway Medical Center, which offers free testing seven days a week. Click here for more details.
  • Masks must be worn in public places but are not required on the beach and open-air areas
  • Myrtle Beach’s popular CAN AM Days will be back, with festivities scheduled from March 12-20, 2022 and tons of savings for accommodations, attractions, shows, restaurants and more. A CAN AM Days savings promotion will run in winter/spring exclusively for Canadians, more details to come.
  • Go to https://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/plan/visitor-resources/healthy-travel-information/ for more information

USA’s road to recovery: Updates from Discover America Canada & destination partners


Massachusetts Travel:

  • In a typical year, Massachusetts welcomes 700,000 Canadian visitors, making Canada its #1 market
  • Greater Boston’s seaport district is home to one of the city’s newest hotels, the Omni Boston Seaport, which opened last month with over 1,000 rooms
  • Don’t miss the Essex Scenic Coastal Byway, a 144-kilometre roadway that connects 14 coastal communities and features 12 of the state’s 45 iconic lighthouses
  • Go to www.visitma.com for more information


Utah Office of Tourism:

  • Utah is home to five national parks, often referred to as ‘the Mighty Five,’ all of which are located in southern Utah
  • Northern Utah is accessed from Canada with nonstop service to Salt Lake City, while Southern Utah is accessible via Las Vegas, which is a 90-minute drive north
  • The brand new Salt Lake City International Airport debuted during the pandemic as a US$4.1 billion rebuild. Phase one opened in September 2020 while additional phases are set to open each year through to 2025. A Delta hub, it is home to Delta’s largest Sky Club Lounge in the world
  • Utah is home to 15 ski resorts, 10 of which are only a 40-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport
  • Snowbasin Resort in Weber County has announced that it will build a300-room, all-inclusive Club Med Hotel, scheduled for completion by 2024
  • Go to https://travel.utah.gov/ for more information

USA’s road to recovery: Updates from Discover America Canada & destination partners


Virginia Tourism:

  • 83% of Canadian visitors drive to Virginia; it’s an approximate 10-hour drive from the Greater Toronto Area
  • Direct flights are available from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa
  • Virginia’s longstanding motto, “Virginia Is For Lovers,” appeals directly to history lovers; historic sites include Mount Vernon, Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg
  • The state is home to 300+ wineries and over 300 breweries, and is considered the Oyster Capital of the East Coast
  • Few people know that country music was born in Virginia (not Tennessee); a must-visit is the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia
  • Go to www.virigina.org for more information


Visit Florida:

  • Beyond Florida’s world-class beaches, the state is home to over 700 freshwater springs where visitors can swim, paddle board, kayak, and take a glass bottom boat ride
  • Florida is home to over 175 state and national parks, making it a popular hiking, biking and camping destination
  • Crystal River, just north of Tampa and west of Orlando, is the only destination in North America where you can legally swim with manatees
  • A must-do experience is cave diving at Devil’s Den, just north of the Gainesville area in Central Florida
  • Also a must-visit is Dry Tortugas National Park, 112 kilometres from Key West and only accessible via sea plane or ferry
  • Visit Florida launched a first-of-its-kind multi-channel campaign last year with the Weather Network and Air Canada, the core of which was the four-part ‘Wanderlust Florida’ docuseries; season two will air in February 2022
  • Go to www.visitflorida.com for more information
USA’s road to recovery: Updates from Discover America Canada & destination partners

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida


Explore Georgia:

  • Did you know? Cleveland Georgia has a thriving wine industry, with dozens of wineries, some of which are award-winning
  • The Chattahoochee River is the longest urban whitewater rafting course and is located right in downtown Columbus
  • The Golden Isles that make up Georgia’s coast comprise four barrier islands – Sea Island, St. Simons Island, Little. St. Simons Island and Jeykyll Island; Jekyll’s famous Driftwood Beach is one of the most photographed places in all of Georgia and was featured in season 11 of the popular ‘The Walking Dead’ television show
  • Go to www.exploregeorgia.org for more information

 


Pictured in top main photo, clockwise from top left: Jackie Ennis, Brand USA; Susan Webb, Discover America Canada; Stephen Fine, Snowbird Advisor; Jennifer Hendry, The Conference Board of Canada; Denise Graham, Discover America Canada; and Raina Williams, Expedia Group