Halifax, Nova Scotia, played host to Rendez-vous Canada in May, and the eastern harbor town welcomed 1,875 delegates, the highest attendance in the show’s 42-year history. International and domestic buyers were there to learn about new travel product during the four-day event, and Canadian destinations have plenty to offer.
In 2017, Canada welcomed a record number of visitors: 20.8 million, up 4 percent from the previous year. The United States (14.3 million) was the source for two-thirds of those visitors, yet overseas countries made up their largest-ever share of arrivals.
The U.K. (801,000), China (682,000) and France (571,000) were the next leading countries of origin, with the most growth among the top markets coming from Mexico (47 percent) and Brazil (22 percent).
Bardish Chagger, minister of small business and tourism for the Canadian government, reported that total revenues from domestic and international tourism topped a record $97 million Canadian dollars last year. And tourism directly supported 735,300 jobs—one in 10.
“Our vision for tourism works because our provincial partners have worked so well together,” she said.
North American connections
Even with the influx of overseas visitors, the United States is an “incredibly important market,” according to Sarah Finstad, regional managing director for North America at Destination Canada. “The U.S. is a high-yield traveler, and they’re coming to Canada in droves.”
Visitors from south of the border stay on the move. “They’re not here to drop and flop,” Finstad said. “They come for a long weekend or for four or five nights, and they do some really active stuff.”
Destination Canada’s research shows that U.S. visitors seek shopping, both in cities and off the beaten trail. And American travelers hope to de-stress by immersing themselves in a destination. “They work hard and play hard and want to experience new things,” Finstad said. “Travel really defines them, and they want to brag about it on social media.”
The dramatic influx of Mexican travelers in 2017 can be partly explained by a perception that they were not welcome in the United States. Destination Canada has identified specific characteristics of those visitors.
“Family is first,” said David Goldstein, president and CEO of Destination Canada. “Mexicans travel in big groups, and they want hotel rooms and restaurant seating together.”
Much of the Mexican tourism market is linked to school holidays: summer, of course, but also in December and April. “They want intellectually stimulating experiences, such as museums, and they’re proud to tell about it on social media,” Goldstein said. “And Mexican visitors like to tour around, city to city.”
Canadian Signature Experiences
Destination Canada curates a collection of tourism businesses and destinations that are unique to Canada—more than 200 experiences across all 13 provinces and territories. The DMO has turned the spotlight on several members of the collection that added new elements, and three of them are NTA members.
Canadian Museum of History
Along with the recent opening of the Canadian History Hall, the country’s largest and most comprehensive exhibition on Canadian history, the museum in Gatineau, Québec, also launched the Canadian Odyssey Group Tour, a one-hour guided tour of the attraction that adds a 90-minute expedition on the Ottawa River with a costumed interpreter.
National Gallery of Canada
Canada’s visual arts treasures are on display in the completely renovated Canadian and Indigenous Galleries, including the new Canadian Photography Institute. And from November 2019 through mid-April 2020, the Ottawa-based museum will stage its second exhibition of modern indigenous art from around the world.
Tourism Sault Ste. Marie
The Ontario DMO launched a group tour itinerary, Follow in the Footsteps of the Group of Seven, that transports guests to the rugged landscape of Northern Ontario that was painted by seven artists in the 1920s. The tour includes a painting lesson aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, and participants paint their own version of a work made famous 100 years ago.
Top photo: On Atlantic Canada Night at Rendez-vous Canada, 1,850 guests were served 1.5 tons of fresh hard-shell lobster.
Photo by Destination Canada