It’s time to explore Canada

There’s no place like home! Takeaways from RVC+

By: Ann Ruppenstein

Although the pandemic continues to take a toll on the travel industry, Canadian tourism officials are optimistic about what the future holds.

“For tourism businesses, this year has been a long, very difficult journey. And while we have 14-15 months of the pandemic behind us, we do not yet fully know what’s lying ahead,” Marsha Walden, President and CEO of Destination Canada, said addressing attendees during the opening of Rendez-vous Canada 2021. “The question on everybody’s mind, of course, is when is the border going to reopen — and no one knows for sure.”

Walden said Destination Canada modelling forecasts that the fall is likely the earliest the border will reopen, but domestic travel is bound to takeoff earlier with restrictions tentatively starting to ease by Canada Day.

Despite the unknown variables, Walden pointed out that there “are so many reasons for optimism too,” citing the progress of vaccines across the country combined with one of the highest levels of vaccine willingness in the world as an example.

Another reason for a positive outlook is the amount of tourism businesses that are opening and expanding amidst the pandemic such as Pursuit, which just announced the development of a new wilderness-inspired hotel in Jasper.

Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from RVC+ and why there are many reasons to be optimistic:

Agents are ready to sell Canada

Maureen Riley, VP, International at Destination Canada announced that more than 3,500 travel advisors have become Canada Specialists since the organization launched a dedicated landing page for agents — & in French.

Riley noted that Destination Canada’s market teams have been actively working with tour operators in anticipation of travel rebounding. A special day dedicated to travel advisors was also part of RVC+. 


A local approach to recovery

As Rocky Mountaineer’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Monique Gomel, Destination Canada’s Interim Chair, Board of Directors, told attendees that she knows firsthand the difficult realities the pandemic has had on the travel industry.

“When I think of how Rocky Mountaineer and other tourism businesses have managed the past 14 months, innovation and resilience are two words that come to mind,” she noted. “Like many of you, Rocky Mountaineer has also pivoted to focus more on the domestic market for the year ahead. For a company that typically welcomes 90% of guests from international markets, this has been the ultimate test and challenge.”

Rocky Mountaineer is gearing up for a July restart to operations, which will mark the luxury train provider’s 31 anniversary.

Investment in the future of the industry

Describing the travel industry as having “shown great resilience,” Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, highlighted that the government has “invested more than $15 billion in support to tourism, arts and cultural sectors.”

As part of Budget 2021, it was announced that a further $15 billion would be committed to the sector, plus $100 million more for Destination Canada.

Seeking a united approach

TIAC President and CEO Beth Potter has met with over 100 individual MPs since the start of the pandemic to outline the needs of the sector. As proof of vaccinations will be a part of the industry going forward, Potter said the association is pushing for “one seamless system across Canada” rather than separate provincial systems that could lead to confusion.

“Travel cannot be limited to only those who have been vaccinated so testing and contact tracing will have to stay,” she added.

Potter says it’s time to change the narrative among those in the industry as businesses are prepared for the comeback with strong health and hygiene protocols in place.

Ahead of Tourism Week, she invited participants to take the 2021 Tourism Pledge to travel in Canada first when restrictions are lifted.

Indigenous Tourism can be key to recovery

The CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada noted that pre-covid, Indigenous Tourism was growing, fuelled by international interest.

“The world was seeking new experiences throughout Canada and Indigenous Tourism was one of the most effective things to add to any destination experiences,” Keith Henry said.

Market research shows that there is also a growing interest for Indigenous Tourism experiences among domestic travellers — although the possibilities that are available aren’t always top of mind.

“Covid-19 has created an unprecedented industry-wide opportunity for Indigenous Tourism and our cultural experiences,” he said.

Stay tuned for a new ITAC 365 campaign in conjunction with Destination Canada, which will promote the diverse experiences and opportunities available for domestic travellers.

Postcards from Canada

Another advantage is that Canada has great brand recognition internationally.

“Canada is a country to believe in, one of the strongest country brands on the planet, spectacular natural assets and a cultural mosaic of incredible human possibility,” said Walden. “A young, vibrant nation that’s beautiful on the outside as well as the inside.”

Some of these highlights are being showcased right now through a partnership with MyPostcard. Canadians can select a postcard online which will be physically printed and mailed out to friends or family, inviting them to visit Canada.

That’s one creative way of keeping the travel dream alive.

Previous Post

Travel predictions for a brave new world

Next Post

Sailing into new beginnings