Canadians invited to "be different" in Europe and beyond
Seven destinations. 10 tour operators. 130 travel industry professionals. One unique event.
The European Travel Commission (ETC) Canada and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) welcomed travel advisors to The Symes in Toronto’s Junction last week and, over the course of the evening, enlightened them on the event’s theme: Plan Different. Travel Different. Be Different.
Observing that it has been quite a while since ETC Canada and its partners have ‘been out together’ for a event, Sandra Moffatt, chair of ETC Canada and country manager, Canada for Tourism Ireland, pointed out that not only was it time for such a gathering, the opportunity to collaborate with CATO, made the event a ‘unique’ initiative.
Marco Frank, vice chair of the ETC Canada and the trade and partnership manager for VisitFlanders, agreed, telling Press Today that while Canada recovered a little later than the United States, it’s now in “full recovery mode and this is the perfect time to do an event like this.”
As for the evening’s theme – Plan Different. Travel Different. Be Different. – Moffatt explained that ‘Travel Different is all about travelling in off-peak times and getting clients’ to travel out of the major centres and into other regions in a particular European destination.
Frank agreed with Moffatt, saying that Travel Different is about ‘spreading the season out’ and ‘getting people to see the benefits of travelling during the off season.”
Said Frank: “It’s about getting people [travel advisors and their clients] to see Europe differently.”
With over tourism once again becoming an issue that the industry needs to address, Frank said that Europe provides a ready-made solution because it offers so many year-round options to travellers.
And the destinations – Ireland, Flanders-Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and France – and tour operators — Intrepid, G Adventures, TravelBrands, The Travel Corporation, Collette, Railbookers, Transat, Goway, Royal Irish Tours and Globus – participating in the event, certainly drove that point home with the various offerings they had on display and the conversations they had with the travel advisors attending.
Which raises the question of how the ETC and CATO came to team up for the event?
As Moffatt explained it, it all started with a conversation about collaboration and the recognition that “while we may be seen as competitors, we’re really not,” adding that all the participating partners have their “own unique selling points.”
Frank agrees wholeheartedly, pointing out: “The pie is big enough for all of us” and by “working together, we’re all stronger.”
CATO’s chair, Brett Walker – who’s also GM Collette Canada and international business operations – told PT that: “This has never been done before. It was an opportunity for cooperation between ETC and CATO and there was alignment between the two organizations on … getting people to travel to different places at different times of the year.”
He continued: ‘We had a conversation on whether an event like this would work,’ and realized that this was “an opportunity to come together under one big tent because there is a lot to talk about.”
Said Walker: “We need to look at this through a different lens. There are lots of cases where low season is the best time to visit a destination and the industry needs to work together on this. We don’t need people only travelling in the summer and the Travel Different theme resonates with our members.”
Of note as well, Walker observed that the joint event was a demonstration of a lesson that the industry had learned from the global pandemic and that lesson was about “the importance of cooperation – because the spirit of cooperation was something that the industry had nurtured through the pandemic.”
As for Walker’s expectations for Europe in 2024, he was quick to tell PT that ‘2024 will be ‘a massive year.’
While “2023 was a good year, 2024 is the first year we’ll have a full year and it will be a blockbuster year,” he said.
Moffatt certainly agrees with Walker’s assessment, pointing out that right now, Europe is at 91% of 2019 levels and by the end of 2024, it will be at 100% of 2019 levels and by the end of 2026, Europe will welcome 7.1 million visitors from Canada.
As for travel advisors, well, Moffatt made it crystal clear that they’re the ‘key drivers’ of business.
In fact, Frank pointed out that the Canadian market is one of the markets where the ETC sees more business coming through travel advisors and that’s why all of the ETC’s members in Canada have a wide range of destination specialists and support programs for travel advisors because “agents are our sales force.”
So, clearly, it’s time to: Plan Different. Travel Different. Be Different. And hopefully, the ETC and CATO will make this an annual event because it is different.