By Nicole Di Tomasso
OTTAWA — On June 22, Destination Canada (DC) hosted an English language industry webinar with Parks Canada and the Indigenous Association of Canada (ITAC). Together, the organizations provided an update on their most recent initiatives to support the recovery of Canada’s tourism sector.
Moderated by Adrienne Foster, director of Strategy and Corporate Planning at Destination Canada, the webinar featured four speakers: Marsha Walden, president and CEO of Destination Canada; Gloria Loree, senior vice-president of Marketing Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at DC; Michael Nadler, vice-president of External Relations and Visitor Experience at Parks Canada and Keith Henry, president and CEO of ITAC. The speakers summarized key steps the organizations are taking for a sustainable recovery of the tourism sector after COVID-19.
First, DC outlined three phases of work in response to the pandemic: shifting into survival mode; reviving market revenue; and achieving long-term success. According to a DC survey, 80 per cent of Canadians plan to travel once more restrictions are lifted, so the organization is promoting national travel heavily.
“With the current strong roll out of vaccinations, we’re seeing strong upward trends and sentiments about travel as well as increasing levels of our communities and their readiness to welcome visitors again, which is critical to the success of the industry,” says Walden.
Specifically, DC is ramping up domestic marketing and communications to encourage Canadians to travel in their own country this year with its Oh! Canada campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to uncover lesser-known places in Canada so travellers can take advantage of new experiences. The association is encouraging Canadians to book trips and is providing a range of domestic itineraries and packages while also ramping up international marketing in anticipation for the Canada-U.S. border re-opening.
Parks Canada is working with the tourism industry at the local, regional and national levels to support recovery and encourage Canadians to visit more national parks, historic sites and marine-conservation areas across the country. In fact, Parks Canada is already forecasting a busy summer season.
“We launched a reservation service in April this year, and we’ve received over 206,000 reservations. This is double the previous record in January 2020, and it is triple the number of reservations we received when we offered free admission in 2017 as part of Canada 150 celebration,” says Nadler.
In response, Parks Canada is focusing its marketing and promotion efforts on visitor retention in addition to strengthening tourism relations, enhancing transaction tools and client services, upgrading visitor facilities and collaborating with tourism partners to promote itineraries.
Lastly, ITAC is elevating its messaging to educate travellers on the importance of Indigenous destinations and experiences in Canada. Henry says Indigenous tourism businesses are more at risk of permanent closures because while it was the fastest-growing sector pre-COVID-19, Indigenous-owned businesses aren’t in a position to survive financially.
ITAC is focusing on four areas to re-build the tourism sector: marketing, development, leadership and partnership. These four pillars are evident in ITAC’s new The Original Original Mark campaign, which aims to celebrate Indigenous culture, promote domestic tourism, and assist travellers in booking experiences from Indigenous-owned businesses across Canada.
Despite the challenges the sector has faced in light of COVID-19, Henry identifies positive aspects of the pandemic and how they align with the messaging in The Original Original campaign.
“We see that attitudes have shifted to embrace a slower, more mindful pace of life with loved ones. Appreciating nature, simplicity, spirituality and soulfulness speaks to a lot of Indigenous tours and businesses, and these are the kinds of meaningful experiences we want to push in itineraries for Canadians to enjoy,” says Henry.