Brand USA gives Canadian travel advisors the ‘Mega’ treatment
Brand USA gives Canadian travel advisors the ‘Mega’ treatment


Brand USA is giving Canada the Mega treatment. The result was a successful series of fam trips across the USA by 55 Canada travel advisors. 

The six fam trips, that concluded recently, meandered through America from coast to coast, covering both iconic urban centres and lesser known tourism gems off the beaten track. 

The MegaFam is a signature program by Brand USA that has been deployed in key major market nations since 2013. These include the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, some countries in Europe, Mexico and China, to name some. 

This is the first year that Canadians were offered the opportunity to participate in a MegaFam program.

“Canada is the number one source market for visitors to the USA, but we don’t want it to be taken for granted,” said Jackie Ennis, the VP of global trade development for Brand USA. 

During an interview onsite in Houston, TX, Ennis explained that Canada has generally been regarded as more of a domestic market for the United States, leaving it out of the MegaFam process. 

But she pointed out that Canada has completely different tourism priorities and market profiles, and that provided the rationale for offering MegaFam programs to Canadian travel advisors. 

“We want to increase Canadian travel trade participation in U.S.-bound travel,” said Ennis. That includes “inspiring travel advisors to sell off-the-beaten track destinations,” she said, noting that there are great opportunities for Canadian agents to generate more visitations to its cross-border neighbour. 

As such, Brand USA anticipates operating another MegaFam from Canada at some point, with the only question being when that will happen. 

“We have not committed to a MegaFam for Canada in 2025, mainly as we only typically operate two MegaFams per year and we have a rotation of markets,” said Ennis. “We will review the rotation and discuss the results with Air Canada and United Airlines to see if and when they would be keen to support another MegaFam for Canada.”

She noted that last year, MegaFams were coordinated for seven markets in Europe, plus Australia/New Zealand, and the UK/Ireland (the UK/Ireland is the only one to operate on a yearly basis). Korea is confirmed for 2025, but pending are Mexico, Brazil, India, China and Germany.

The appointment of Casey Canevari in 2022 as the first ever Brand USA senior manager for Canada was one result of the Brand USA changed outlook on Canada as a USA source market. The MegaFam project for Canada was another, and the just-completed fam programs were apparently a hit with participants. “The feedback has been great,” said Ennis, who met participating agents at the conclusion of their trips.

The six fam itineraries were:

  • Route 66 Landmarks and Bourbon Chicago IL, Springfield IL, St. Louis MO, Louisville KY, Houston TX
  • Western Wonders, Peaks and Plains Denver CO, Fort Collins CO, Cheyenne WY, Houston TX
  • As Seen on Screen Burbank CA, Anaheim CA, San Diego CA, Houston TX
  • Sands and Sunsets Phoenix AZ, Flagstaff AZ, Las Vegas NV, Houston TX
  • Secret Trails, Backroads, and Beaches New Orleans LA, Jefferson Parish LA, Lafayette LA, Lake Charles LA, Galveston TX, Houston, TX
  • Cityscapes and Coastlines Washington D.C., Annapolis MD, Philadelphia PA, Houston TX

They all lasted seven days, concluding with a confluence of agents in Houston TX, where they convened at celebratory dinner events, destination tours and even an MLB baseball game between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves. The Houston portion lasted for two days, and included a tour of the Space Center Houston.

“I loved it, it was probably the best fam ever for me, because it was so inventive, it had something different for everyone,” said Brittany Uskoski, a senior corporate travel consultant for BCD Travel in Winnipeg. She took part in the “Route 66 Landmarks and Bourbon” tour.

As a seller of corporate travel, she said she learned about attraction and F&B options that would be of interest to business travellers in cities like Chicago and St. Louis. These would be especially appealing to corporate travellers at the conclusion of a working day and included, for example, the 360 Chicago Observation Deck at the top of the John Hancock Center in Chicago.

Another option would be the Ballpark Village in St. Louis, adjacent to Busch Stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals play their home games. This sports-themed area has plenty of dining and bar options for relaxing and watching sports at the end of a work day.

“These are things that are great to do after work or in the evenings, that they might not know about or didn’t find on their own,” said Uskoski. “I have clients that would be interested in these.”

On the other hand, the content of the “Route 66 Landmarks and Bourbon” program had some rural/agricultural aspects that had great potential for clients who do business with Kendra Allen of Frederick Travel in Waterloo, ON. 

For instance, the agricultural use of byproducts rendered by the production of beer at the gigantic Anheuser-Busch brewing facilities in St. Louis MO would be of interest to her clients, most of whom book specialized agricultural tours through her company. 

And the complex operations of the famous Churchill Downs in Louisville KY, home of the Kentucky Derby horse race, would also get high marks for interest by her clientele, she said in the course of her fam trip.

To participate in the MegaFam, travel advisors were required to meet a few requirements to demonstrate that they were qualified.

These included the need to:

  1. Sell 4 round-trip (Canada to U.S.) tickets on Air Canada
  2. Complete certain badges on the USA Discovery Program
  3. Complete a 150-word essay
  4. Be an IATA agent
  5. Be certified on the Air Canada Global Sales University

Key to the overall success of Brand USA’s travel trade projects is having sufficient air access from Canada to the U.S. to meet demand and reach beyond the primary cities to the smaller centres that define America, said Casey Canevari. “To, through and beyond the gateways,” is the guiding principle, he said.

An increase in transborder flight services is crucial to this access, he said, and this is being accomplished by airlines including Air Canada, United Airlines, WestJet, Air Transat and Porter.

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