TORONTO — Brand USA’s ‘USA Training Day’ specifically for Canadian travel agents took place with possibly – hopefully – just weeks to go before the gradual reopening of the Canada-U.S. border gets underway.
Chris Thompson, CEO and President, Brand USA told agents at yesterday’s online event that he’s cautiously optimistic as momentum builds towards a potential reopening of the border.
“We welcome our friends and visitors back from Canada,” said Thompson in his opening remarks to the June 23 session.
“It’s no surprise to any of you that Canada is our largest source market,” he said. “We have nearly 80 million visitors a year and a quarter of those come from our friends north of our border. So Canada always has been and will be a critical contributor to our return – to whatever ‘the next normal’ looks like.”
Thompson said he’s “more optimistic than I’ve ever been about a future that’s a little brighter.”
At the same time, he’s well aware that the key to restoring cross-border travel between Canada and the U.S. is reopening the border.
“I do have cautious optimism because, as we well know, there are still a lot of things that are outside of each of our control as it relates to impediments that have not allowed people to travel. Certainly a lot of that has to do with our two governments and them getting together and getting the border open … so we’re optimistic,” he said.
On June 21 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said further easing of Canada’s travel restrictions could be weeks away, not months, provided vaccination rates stay strong and COVID numbers continue to trend down. Starting 11:59 p.m. on July 5, fully vaccinated Canadian travellers and permanent residents returning to Canada from abroad no longer be required to quarantine, and do not need to do the day 8 PCR test. The pre-departure and on-arrive PCR tests are still mandatory. Canada’s travel advisory against non-essential travel is still in effect.
Meanwhile the closure of the Canada-U.S. border has been extended, to July 21, however based on Trudeau’s June 21 remarks, it’s possible this could be the last closure renewal.
“Now’s the time to plan, assuming that’s going to happen,” Thompson told agents yesterday.
He added: “We know the pent-up demand is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen.”
Even when the border reopens, said Thompson, a critical component to get travel started again is gaining the consumer’s confidence. Thompson says the rapid return to a robust domestic travel market in the U.S. underlines the country’s competence in getting travel restarted safely, which should help build confidence levels for international visitors, including Canadians.
Thompson wrapped up his opening remarks with a shout out to travel agents attending USA Training Day: “Thank you for your commitment, and thank you for all you’re going to do in the months ahead. We look forward to welcoming everybody back here with open arms.”
USA Training Day gave Canadian agents an opportunity to learn more about U.S. destinations from Brand USA’s receptive tour operator partners, and also hear from Donald Leadbetter, Tourism Program Manager for the U.S. National Park Service. Agents will also had the chance to win travel prizes. All pre-recorded content will be translated into French.
Attendees also learned about Brand USA’s resources for the travel trade….
- Brand USA’s travel trade website is the official resource for USA Travel Trade planning, where agents can find inspiration and information to help book more travel to the USA.
- Insider Guides road trip itinerary ideas provide inspirational and bookable road trip itineraries.
- Brand USA’s Travel Trade Toolkit offers images, videos, print ads, and banner ads, which agents can customize to their individual needs. To access images and videos, agents must have a MediaValet account. New users can register here.
- USA Discovery Program is Brand USA’s online training platform.
- GoUSA TV is what Brand USA calls the premier travel entertainment streaming platform. It’s available on GO Transit, Plex, Reach TV, iOS, Android, Android TV, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Google Chromecast without a subscription, fees, or login required. Launching new programming on a monthly basis, the GoUSA TV lineup inspires travellers to explore the USA’s must-see places, great outdoors, foodie hot spots, and road trips.