At the start of the summer of 2020, Canadian tourism is largely focused on, well, Canadians.
The border with the United States is closed, and visitors who fly into Canada must self-isolate for two weeks. And while a few provinces are not yet allowing residents of other provinces to visit, there’s a lot of Canada for Canadians to explore in the months ahead.
Destination Canada, the country’s tourism marketing organization, has partnered with provinces and territories to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The organization is investing $30 million over the next 18 months to help destinations and tourism businesses welcome domestic travelers to their communities.
“This program is a new partnership with the provinces and territories to deliver locally led marketing programs encouraging Canadians to discover their own backyard,” says David Robinson, Destination Canada’ interim president and CEO. ”This shift is part of Destination Canada’s strategic response to supporting tourism as a result of COVID-19.”
In working with its partners to distribute the $30 million, Destination Canada asks that funded projects be flexible enough to be paused if a viral resurgence occurs or if demand shifts. Also, marketing content should mesh easily with Destination Canada’s larger campaigns, including its brand position: “Canada. For Glowing Hearts.”
Professionals at provincial marketing organizations such as Tourism Nova Scotia welcome the flow of funds, according to Zandra Alexander, communications advisor.
“We are thrilled to have this domestic support during this challenging time, as the pandemic has greatly impacted the tourism industry here in Nova Scotia and across Canada,” she says. “It’s proof of the speed at which DMOs at all levels in Canada have pivoted their strategies to focus on recovery.”
Alexander says that Nova Scotia’s marketing plans will be implemented in phases as restrictions are lifted. (The province currently imposes the 14-day isolation period.) The first phase includes a video that welcomes visitors when the time is right, the next phase encourages Nova Scotians to support local tourism businesses, and a third phase will market the province to the rest of the Maritime region and beyond.
The funds offer welcome relief in another Atlantic province, Newfoundland and Labrador. Paul Bugge, director of sales for Destination St. John’s says that as a small DMO that has sustained major budget shortfalls, funding from Destination Canada is critical. Bugge is participating in training and development programs that are led by the PMO.
“Under the banner of ‘One Industry,’ Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador has consulted with government officials and health authorities to provide sector-specific training to all tourism operations in the province,” he says. “The goal is to ensure guest readiness and safety, while using guidelines to create consistent standards and expectations.”
On the other side of the country, Amy Thacker, CEO of Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association in British Columbia, says that some $6 million has been allocated to the PMO, Destination BC.
“It is great to see Destination Canada providing redirected investment in tourism marketing, even though this doesn’t come to our organization,” Thacker says. She adds that marketing helps with one portion of the tourism equation—demand—and she advocates for an investment in the supply side as well.
“Businesses—our attractions, hotels, and tour companies—need access to nontraditional financing and cash injections to help address liquidity and solvency problems,” Thacker says. “If these businesses go away, there will be nothing for people to visit.”
Thacker would like to see investment in supply-side projects that stimulate the visitor economy: trails, public art and festivals, and new experiences and tour product.
When tourism returns to Canada, both residents and visitors will discover that throughout the country, they can find attractions and adventure that match Bugge’s description of St. John’s: “vibrant and colorful, close to nature, full of wide-open green spaces, with a rich culture steeped in heritage, and a people known as some of the friendliest in the world.”
Top photo: Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site near St. John's, Newfoundland
Photo by Barrett & MacKay Photos