Over the last year and a half, Destination Canada has been thinking about moving—moving away from being a destination brand and becoming a passion brand.
At the 2019 Rendez-vous Canada’s energetic Inside Track session in Toronto, CEO David Goldstein replayed for the audience several steps in the organization’s rebranding process, but it came down to this: They want to resonate. They want to speak of inclusion and promote the people, not just the places. They want to capture hearts.
Thus, For Glowing Hearts was born.
“The belief is that travel should change you,” Goldstein said.
And as I spoke with Goldstein at my first-ever RVC, I found out just how the components of this new branding will come together. It lies within the provinces, the cities and the people who make promoting those places and product their life’s work.
Goldstein has had the opportunity to visit some incredible places during his career in travel, and although he doesn’t have a favorite (he says he loves all his children), Torngat Mountains National Park, in the northern tip of Labrador, left “an important impression on his heart.”
“It’s the only ecosystem on the planet where black bears and polar bears coexist. It’s got these unbelievable fjords,” he said. “There are so many of these distinct regions of Canada that have their own cultures and languages.”
I also spoke with several NTA members at Rendez-vous Canada.
Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism’s Charlotte Jewczyk talked about the “Come From Away” experience. Travelers can fly into Gander, the Newfoundland town that inspired the hit Broadway musical, and learn about the kindness of its residents, who received nearly 6,700 unexpected guests when flights were rerouted there following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
My literature-loving heart soared when Grant McRae with Tourism Prince Edward Island handed me a copy of “Anne of Green Gables.” The beautiful island is the setting for the classic book, and his organization offers several packages with this at the focus.
Travel Manitoba’s Michel LaRiviere said there’s much planned for the province’s 150th anniversary celebration next year. The DMO is shedding new light on its Northern Lights product (no pun intended, really). Churchill is one of the top three spots for viewing, and the city received lots of attention at the Travel Manitoba-sponsored luncheon. Videos of beluga whale communications and colorful stories about vacationing in Churchill had many delegates aspiring to go there before dessert.
I found a common thread in many conversations, presentations and interviews at RVC: the push for getting travelers from around the world to Canada’s bustling cities and lovely remote territories—all during the off-seasons.
“There’s so much undiscovered Canada,” Goldstein said. “We have fantastic urban centers with nature on the cusps, which is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. We’re working on building itineraries with urban (components) and extraordinary outdoor adventures. That’s our jam. We just have to jam it a little louder.”
Visitors can find year-round foodie tours in Jasper, Travel Alberta’s Desiree Gibson said. The new Peak Nik Tour combines a guided hike with cooking on the mountain, and NTA-member Heritage Park Historical Village also has three new experiences to discover.
Nova Scotia Tourism’s Meghan Lloyd expressed excitement about the four newest direct international flights into Halifax, including ones from Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City.
While Toronto welcomed hundreds of people from all over the world for RVC, the city is celebrating a record year with 44 million travelers having visited in 2018. And even more people poured in since the NBA Finals were going on during the event.
According to Tourism Toronto’s Maxine Morrell-West, the DMO is launching a new marketing campaign called “Let Yourself In,” designed to promote Toronto’s diversity and inclusivity. She also said they’re busy endorsing the city’s summer and fall festivals, Mirvish Productions' shows, and new exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
And as Canada’s new For Glowing Hearts initiative rolls out this year, Goldstein said the brand is an embodiment of what Canada is: one of the world’s most welcoming and open countries.
“At the end of the day it’s about people engaging with people doing cool stuff,” he said. “Our promise is that Canada will leave a lasting mark on your heart (and encourage you) to put your camera down.”
Photos by Destination Canada