Canada’s sesquicentennial sojourn

A long word for something so simple! Canada is gearing up for its 150th anniversary as a nation, being celebrated from coast to coast on July 1. Leading up to this date, hotels across the country are expecting record numbers that will last throughout the summer. Rather than regurgitate a litany of positive statistics, though, there are a few good takeaways for hoteliers around the world to note.

I was inspired to write on this subject after attending the 11th annual Leisure Travel Summit held this month in Toronto and hosted by Best Western. The five-person panel – comprising all women, I might add, something we should see more often – noted that now more than ever is time to explore the Great White North and that this sort of influx of visitors haven’t been seen since the Expo ’67 days.

Rather than ascribing this traveler increase to a singular compression event, it is the result of a confluence of factors. In Canada’s case, this growth is fueled largely by the low dollar relative to the United States and overseas currencies. Interestingly, however, 80% of travel within Canada is still domestic, as numerous Canadians conduct their own internal travel research with the express desire to explore the lesser-known parts of the nation.

This has left Destination Canada with a sweeping challenge as the organization attempts to shift foreign arrivals to places not traditionally found on postcards. That is, mainstays like Banff and Quebec City will continue to be booked solid during the high season, so in order to show sustained year-over-year growth, lesser-known destinations must be promoted as well as made more accessible. And this fits perfectly with what the surveyed newcomers are craving – outdoor experiences amidst vast untouched lands, endless boreal forests, snowcapped mountains and northern lights.

The overall trend here is that as urbanization solidifies its grasp on the world, people all over are in search of a more bucolic journey. With airlift increasing to northern cities like Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Canada is shaping up to be the perfect country to meet this demand. On a local scale, you can also take advantage of this by building programs and events that feature such pastoral themes, cuisine and products.

Next, and if it isn’t already clear from the above, every hotel should work closely with their local destination marketing organizations so that they are fully aware of initiatives to heighten awareness and travel from select markets. Ideally, appointing a liaison or public sector ambassador will work wonders to ensure that your promotional efforts act synergistically with those from airlines, tour operators, vendors and government organizations. In order to prevent your property from being solely dependent on one particular demographic or market, you must have constant communication with your neighbors so that you are in sync with the going trends.

Last, you must think well ahead of time to properly capitalize on compression events to maximize your revenues. The Canada 150 celebrations didn’t come out of the blue, and the hotels now hovering at 100% occupancy started planning this time last year at the earliest. While an anniversary occasion like this only happens once or twice in a lifetime, there will undoubtedly be many other regional and local happenings that you can tie your marketing efforts into. Figure out when these are taking place as far in advance as possible so that you can develop partners, advertising materials and package pricing for the greatest output.

Getting back to Canada’s sesquicentennial, if you haven’t already been, now is as great a time as ever to visit this great (but still young) nation. Rates may be a tad high this summer due to the surge in demand, but it’s worth it!