Oh, Canada!

Oh, Canada 🍁

How to sell more domestic travel

Ann Ruppenstein

THere's no place like home

As many travellers set their sights on staying closer to home, the Canadian market holds tremendous potential for the recovery of the tourism industry. Travel agents can take advantage of this untapped opportunity by focusing on a hyper-local approach to selling and promoting travel.

With domestic travel set to pave the way for the recovery of the travel and tourism industry in Canada, the travel trade can play an important role in promoting hyper-local and regional travel.

“There are over 23,000 travel advisors in Canada. This vast network is a valuable resource for Canadians who have the desire to travel but likely need help navigating the new landscape,” Sébastien Dubois, Executive Director, Industry Partnerships at Destination Canada, tells Travel Courier. “It’s important to remember one of the most powerful influencers on travel decisions is recommendations from friends and family. With an unprecedented number of Canadians travelling domestically, there will be a greater volume of travellers sharing their travel highlights and booking recommendations. Conversation and engagement that is generated at a hyper-local level will help build pride amongst Canadians. This kind of advocacy has the potential for long-term impact and will change how Canadians see and value their own country for holiday and business travel in the future.”

Dubois points out that historically, Canadians spend over $33.1 billion annually on trips within their own provinces, which has the potential to increase as many travellers are seeking to explore their own backyards. Of that, Canadians spent $13.5 billion on same day trips, which is referred to as hyper-local travel within a one to two hour drive and is already taking place across most regions in Canada.

“Additionally, Canadians spent $19.7 billion on overnight trips within their own province, usually short weekend trips, representing 63% of total overnight spending in Canada — this is considered regional travel and is the next phase we will see across Canada,” Dubois says. “This hyper-local and regional travel will have a huge impact on restarting the visitor economy.”

With no set timelines in place and the fact that the return to travel in Canada will look different across the country, he says recovery efforts are not only about reaching local tourists, but also making sure communities are ready to welcome them back — and feel safe in doing so.

“Right now, we see that Canadians are increasingly ready to welcome tourists from within Canada — in our Resident Sentiment weekly tracking,” he says. “When the time is right, we also know that two of the most important factors travellers are reporting as important to them are safety and flexibility. Travel advisors will advise them on what is safe to do, and provide travellers with the security that their vacation plans can be managed professionally by a certified agent.”

As such, Canada’s national tourism marketing agency is collaborating with industry partners to support a timely recovery and strengthen its ability to build demand for the fall, winter and beyond.

“This starts with providing domestic travel advisors with the product knowledge they need so they can better guide Canadians with their travel plans,” he says. “Reach out to your client database and remind them that you are here as a resource, and can offer assurance when it comes to navigating provincial health and safety protocols, travel insurance requirements, and finding bookable experiences for various group sizes and budgets. It will foster relationships for months and years to come.”

As provincial borders begin to open and tourist areas such as Provincial Parks become available, Susan Bowman, Vice President, Marketing and Industry Relations at Transat Distribution Canada inc., believes it’s an ideal time to start planning travel within Canada.

“Many Canadians are feeling the strain of being in isolation and they want to begin to explore again while still respecting the social distancing guidelines. There are many great Canadian companies that offer a variety of options to see Canada that can meet these needs,” she says. “There is minimal foreign tourists making even the most sought after Canadian tourist attractions accessible. Plus, Canadians are being encouraged to help businesses recover and travelling within Canada is a great way to ‘buy local.’”

To take advantage of the increased demand for domestic travel, TDC signed a preferred agreement with luxury RV company CanaDream, which has a fleet of 1,300, for couples and families looking for a local getaway this year.

“Many consumers will still be nervous to travel in the short term. But with flexible booking conditions, they may be ready to plan and buy for late summer/ fall when we all hope the conditions are better,” she says. “We must stay positive, travel will rebound. Never has the value of a travel professional been more validated.”

As Canadians are still under a non-essential travel ban, dealing with limited options for international flights and clients who are craving getaways, Colton Chia, Director of Partnerships at TPI, says it’s wise for travel advisors to focus on selling Canada.

“Typically, advisors don’t focus on close-to-home vacation planning, but there is a great opportunity here to grow your client base while delivering exceptional Canadian vacations, if you can work with a new or existing client to plan a staycation, you remain top of mind and a great way to secure future business,” Chia tells Travel Courier. “We have a dedicated team working closely with our supplier partners on a strategy to gather promote North American products for our advisors. All of the consumer-facing marketing initiatives that we deploy for our advisors are focusing on inspiration and staycation content to showcase North American products.”

In order to help facilitate growth within the domestic landscape, TPI created an exclusive website for its advisors showcasing a list of travel partners that service the Canadian travel market, as well as a list of all Virtuoso hotel partners.

“Become a local expert and let people know that you are an expert,” he stresses. “By getting to know the ins and outs of the key travel spots in your province and areas across the country, you become the go-to expert. Canadians want a change of scenery, even if that is just for the weekend, they may not think that you can help them plan a Canadian vacation, so you need to ensure you get the word out that you can assist and showcase your knowledge and ask for the business. TPI has suggested treating this time as an investment in your future business by growing your database and securing some income during a time where we have limited options for immediate travel sales.”

One thing that this pandemic has brought forward even more, he says, is the importance of working with a travel advisor.

“The best thing travel advisors can do right now is to communicate with their clients,” he adds. “Keeping open communication with their clients and keeping them updated with all the latest information is of the utmost importance to build their trust.”

Looking ahead, Keith Henry, President and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, says the reality is that Canada will reopen domestically first in the recovery from the effects of COVID-19.

“Canadians have been our largest and most reliable customer from the start so Indigenous tourism businesses are rethinking their marketing plans and business models to ensure Canadians are better aware of the world class Indigenous experiences we have throughout Canada,” Henry tells Travel Courier.

ITAC, the lead organization tasked with growing the Indigenous tourism industry across the country, and its network of Provincial and Territorial Indigenous tourism associations have been coordinating efforts to identify market-ready Indigenous experiences anywhere in Canada.

“Agents can gain the upper hand to sell authentic Indigenous tourism experiences if they know where the best product is,” he says, encouraging the travel trade to work alongside the association to gain a better understanding of how it packages and promotes experiences. “One in three Canadians want to experience Indigenous tourism but often are not sure where and how to purchase. ITAC can be an excellent partner to create this knowledge.”

Meanwhile, Stephanie Bishop, managing director of the Globus family of brands, points out that travellers don’t need to fly across an ocean to discover an unforgettable, off-the-beaten-path journey, packed with special moments and memories to last a lifetime.

“There’s plenty of opportunities in our own, Canadian ‘backyard’ that will encourage wayfarers to ‘write home about home.’ And with some uncertainty as to when countries across the globe will open their borders for international travel, there’s no better time than the present to plan an escape near home and discover North America, from the mountains to Mounties and everything in-between,” she tells Travel Courier. “People are ready to travel and they’re comfortable going somewhere close to home. On a do-it-yourself vacation in a world with COVID-19, there’s some hesitancy that can lead to feeling overwhelmed thanks to questions like, ‘will the hotel be clean?’ or ‘will there be crowds I need to navigate when I get there?’ That’s where a tour comes in.”

For the last three years, Globus has put together tours across Europe focused on undiscovered destinations – special, off-the-beaten-path places only the locals know – in Italy, Great Britain and the Mediterranean.

This year, their efforts were on North America, which has just been unveiled under the series of “Undiscovered North America” touring vacations – many of which are available in Canada, as early as this fall.

“Our country has so much beauty to offer us, as residents and as globetrotters,” she says. “Now, more than ever, travellers want to know that they’re in good hands. They want to escape – to new destinations, but also the stress of the world around them. As tour operators, we provide that service. Travel advisors do too. With our new ‘Undiscovered North America’ series of tours, we’re giving advisors a reason, and an opportunity, to reach out to their clients and offer them an off-the-beaten-path journey they may not have considered before. It is not business as usual, nor is it ‘travel as usual.’”

Bishop says Canadians typically wait until later in their lives to discover destinations and experiences that await closer to home, but those plans no longer need to get postponed.

“Exploring Alaska after retirement is a good example,” she says. “Now is the perfect time to make plans in our North American backyard – from enjoying the music that can be found on a tour from Memphis to New Orleans to enjoying breathtaking views along the Gaspé Peninsula.”

With restrictions in place on most travel to the USA and internationally, Lisa Mclean, Marketing Manager for Le Boat says it’s a great opportunity for Canadians to explore more of their own back yard this year.

“We believe that Le Boat is an ideal option for those looking to vacation closer to home this summer or fall,” she said. “After this long period at home, this will allow people an opportunity to get away from it all – go off the beaten track with family and friends without the worries of being in the busiest tourist areas the whole time. Le Boat offers a chance for relax and see new sights from the comforts of your own private yacht.”

Le Boat has a local fleet of 24 boats available for rental on the Rideau Canal, which can be rented without previous boating experience or boat license required. Travel partners and agent commission rates start at 10%. To help entice travellers, the company is also offering savings of up to 25% off the 2020 season and an early booking offer for 2021 bookings for savings of up to 20%.

“Being on your own private cruiser allows you to sleep on board, set your own schedule, plan your own route and control your environment, determine where you stop and whom you interact with, while you explore the beautiful and historic Rideau waterway,” said Mclean. “Le Boat makes it as easy for people to be able to get outdoors and have an amazing getaway, all while exploring one of Ontario’s best keep secrets. It’s the perfect option for families and couples wanting to get outside and enjoy the outdoors after the past months of being at home.”

Resources for travel advisors:

Register now to take part in Baxter Media’s #TravelWebcastWeek session on looking local: a new perspective on packaging and selling Canada.

Destination Canada’s Canada Specialist program can be found at:

To learn about ITAC’s new Destination Indigenous marketing campaign, which highlights and educates travellers about the many Indigenous experiences that will welcome Canadians this summer, visit:

For more on Globus’ “Undiscovered North America” tours visit:

To learn about Le Boat’s Go Boating With Confidence policy, visit: 

Photos//Destination Canada & Adobe Stock.

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