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Report reveals the trends beyond the daily crisis
A newly released study by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) provides travel and tourism professionals with some much needed reassurance. The report takes a detailed look at almost 20 years of data and discovers that despite the shocks of the past few years, this country's tourism industry remains both a leading economic growth sector and a job creating industry.
"The study is reassuring reading for an industry that's lived through the shocks of the past few years. It reminds us that we have lived through downturns [before] and the industry has returned to growth," observed the CTC's executive director of research, Scott Meis.
The results were as follows:
Lately though, things are beginning to look better. Estimates for the second quarter of 2004 showed that total tourism expenditures reached $13.7 billion, an increase of 10% compared to the same period in 2003.
Canada seen as gay-friendly travel destination
The Supreme Court's same-sex ruling has branded Canada a gay-friendly destination, which could be an economic boon for Canada's embattled tourism industry.
It is estimated that our new international image could draw more than $1 billion over the next 3 years if governments and businesses show a willingness to market Canada as a pro-gay destination.
That $1-billion estimate is just the tip of the iceberg based on what just Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver stand to gain from the same-sex marriage business.
However, getting hitched isn't the only reason gay tourists travel to Canada - even larger numbers seek entertainment, sports, leisure and northern adventures.
Canada's various 'gay pride' events are also credited for attracting the lion's share of gay tourism dollars. Toronto's Gay Pride parade week pumped about $60 million into the city's economy in 2004, with about one million people alone attending the main event. Other Canadian cities, such as Montreal and Vancouver, also pad their coffers with 'pride' profits estimated at $40 million and $23 million, respectively.
With the American gay travel market alone worth about US$54 billion Canada needs to strike while the iron is hot.
Loren Christie, sales manager with Toronto's Sheraton Centre, says his hotel is just one of many businesses exploring the potential of the gay and lesbian market. "If you look at the market research, the gay and lesbian individual is somebody that has a little more disposable income. In some cases, they may not have kids, so they have more money to spend," said Christie. "It is also a group that travels and they like to travel well."
Historic, political connections help lure Chinese tourists to Canada
The power of history and the prestige of position could both play to Canada's advantage when a growing wave of tourists from China start to make their holiday choices.
The participation of Chinese immigrants in the early days of Canadian nation building resonates through many Chinese families, over a number of generations. The result is an emerging demand by Chinese to visit Canada in a quest to explore those historical roots. "Canada has the potential to become an icon destination for Chinese travellers," says Rod Harris, the president of Tourism BC. He recalled a similar surge of Chinese travellers who booked holidays to Australia within the last 5 years, before the slowdown resulting from SARS. Many visited the sites of Australia's 1850s gold rush in New South Wales, with a view to exploring their historical connection to that part of Australia's own nation building process. "It was huge for a few years," said Harris, predicting that Canada could easily engineer its own tourism gold rush with some effective, targeted marketing.
But to maximize the opportunity, Canada also needs to be assigned Approved Destination Status (ADS) by China, says the president. ADS for Australia was, and is, the key factor in driving visitations from Asia's emerging economic giant. "We won't start a big promotional push in China until Canada has ADS," said Harris, who also pointed out that current tourism marketing efforts have already paid dividends. After falling 17% post-SARS, Chinese arrivals to BC have rebounded by 28% to date in 2004.
The only downside to China's economic ascension is that its own tourism industry is on a similar growth curve, with aspirations to attract ever more international visitors, said the BC tourism president. "They will be competing with us for visitors from the U.S. and Europe, for instance," said Harris, who acknowledged that both China's "living history" attractions and the buzz of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing were big draw factors.
Zoom adds Easter low cost flights to Canada
Low fares transatlantic carrier Zoom Airlines has added extra flights from Gatwick to Halifax and Ottawa to cope with Easter demand. The additional Halifax and Ottawa flights will operate weekly from March 21 to April 26 with prices starting at £89 one-way including tax.
The Canadian airline's Easter 2005 timetable also includes services from Gatwick to Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and Glasgow to Toronto and Vancouver.
UK director Debbie Marshall said: "We have received many enquiries for flights next spring and we are delighted to be adding Halifax and Ottawa to our Easter schedule. "Easter is a stunning time of year to visit Canada and Zoom has now made it far more affordable to take an Easter break in a choice of Canadian cities at prices equivalent to a European flight.
2004: A strong year for tourism
The World Tourism Organization (WTO) is reporting that it has been a strong year for the world's tourism industry. In fact, according to the WTO's initial projections, 2004 has seen international tourist arrivals grow by about 10%.
The strong performance of the industry in 2004 comes on the heels of what the WTO describes as 3 "subdued" years, with growth of less than 1%.
Results are positive for all regions. Asia and the Pacific, hardest hit by the SARS outbreak last year, led growth with an increase of 37% in the first 8 months of the year, while North America was up by 12% as it returned to the positive side of the ledger following more than 3 years of losses. The Middle East overcame disruptions caused by the conflict in Iraq, posting gains of 24%. Destinations in the North Africa region - Morocco and Tunisia - saw traffic grow by 9%. In Europe, tourism gains were a little more modest, with the region posting gains of 6%. The WTO indicated that growth in 2004 has been driven by pent-up demand. Consumer and business confidence is back, with leisure tourism performing strongly and business tourism picking up.
As well, 2004 has shown a gradual recovery of long-haul traffic, and there is stronger demand for air transport on overseas routes, premium accommodation, and in visits to world capitals.
WTO Deputy Secretary General Dr. Dawid de Villiers observed of the gains: "We knew that prospects for 2004 were good, but the strength of the rebound has even surprised us. We are confident that the tourism sector is back on the right track after 3 difficult years. It is encouraging to see that destinations and industry have regained confidence. Once again the tourism sector has shown its extraordinary resilience and its ability to overcome difficulties, and in many cases it has even emerged stronger."
Alberta set to party in 2005
In 2005, Alberta will mark its 100th birthday and tourism authorities there will not miss the chance to make the most of the opportunity.
The provincial government has already approved a hefty increase in Alberta's tourism marketing budget, from $24.2 million in 2004-2005, to $42 million for 2005-2006.
The centennial birthday itself will take place in September 2005, and a visit by the Queen has been confirmed for May.
Alberta has advantage on centennial, tourism Saskatoon frets
Cash-rich Alberta has a big advantage when it comes to attracting visitors to its centennial celebrations according to Tourism Saskatoon.
Randy Fernets, the director of corporate development for Tourism Saskatoon, said Alberta has spent up to $400 million over the past four years to upgrade parks and visitor amenities. Saskatchewan hasn't spent anywhere near that amount, he said.
Earlier this month, the federal government said it would contribute $40 million towards Saskatchewan's centennial celebrations. The province had previously announced it would spend $170 million on centennial events and legacy projects. Fernets said the province should be putting more money into helping develop new attractions, and upgrading old ones.
Nova Scotia government to spend on tourism promotion
Nova Scotia will spend an additional $15 million over the next 3 years on tourism marketing and product development, Tourism Minister Rodney MacDonald announced recently. "We are investing with confidence in an industry that will continue to help the province's economy grow,'' said MacDonald.
Initial figures for 2004 show visitors to the province spent about $1.29 billion, an increase of roughly 5% over the year previous. MacDonald said the industry hopes to double revenues by 2012.
Most of the growth is being attributed to an increase in travellers from Europe and the cruise ship business. But, the number of American tourists, the province's mainstay for many years, remained weak.
Cross-border travel took a nosedive in 2003, partly because of the SARS and mad cow scares. MacDonald said the new money will help the province advertise in the U.S. and create awareness of the province. "We did some research and as one example many Americans think Nova Scotia is an Island,'' said MacDonald. "That was even mentioned recently on CNN coverage of the presidential visit.''
Toronto tourism is back from the abyss
After 4 years of steady decline punctuated by the "calamity" of SARS in 2003, the city is poised to at least come close to record numbers for 2004.
"We are not only seeing a rebound we're starting to see renewal," said Toronto Tourism president and CEO Bruce MacMillan, who forecasted a 5.4% total increase in visitors on the year, largely due to increases amongst domestic and international visitors. U.S. visitors have been more reluctant to return due to a number of issues, including the ascending Canadian $, resentment over Canada's decision not to participate in the war in Iraq, and fear of lengthy border crossings.
The renewed vigour of Toronto tourism has seen the city's Pearson International Airport welcome close to 6 million non-US arrivals in the first 8 months of the year - a million passengers ahead of the previous year and half a million more than in 2001. At the same time, hotel occupancies in the city were nearly 71%, up 10% on the year and, like the Pearson arrivals figures, the best in 4 years, including pre-9/11 2001.
"We're not out of the woods yet, but the signs are pointing in the right direction," said Rod Seiling, president of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association.
Noting that Toronto's tourism sector had been under funded for the last decade, Seiling said the bounce-back was clearly attributable to increased funding from the province of Ontario through the Ontario Destination Revitalization Program, and the hotel association's introduction of a 3% destination marketing fee (DMF), which is turned over to Toronto Tourism, as having provided the necessary funds to allow Toronto to adequately market against its competitors abroad. MacMillan agreed, pointing out that the number of visitors from the UK and Japan has jumped 9% so far this year, primarily, he said, "because we finally had the resources to go there."
Travel agents select Vancouver
Readers of Travel Weekly, one of the largest and most influential U.S. trade magazines for travel agents, have selected Vancouver as the top Canadian destination for 2004.
At its 2nd annual awards ceremony held in New York City, Travel Weekly gave Vancouver the nod over Banff, Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal.
Travel agents were able to cast their votes through an on-line open ballot process.
"It's been a wonderful year for Vancouver," said Tourism Vancouver chair Paul Tilbury. "Not only have we enjoyed healthy growth in visitation over 2003, we've won our second prestigious award in as many months. With the Conde Nast Traveler honour, and now the top nod from Travel Weekly, our city and tourism industry are enjoying solid momentum heading into 2005."
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Travel site traffic up 13% in November
One in four Americans, or 68 million Web surfers, used online travel sites in November, up 13% from a year earlier, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.
The market research company said 23% of Americans and 46% of all active Web surfers visited a travel site during the month.
Visitor traffic to holiday homes.canada web site for the month of December 2004:
Total 'hits' for the month = 117,149 hits (3,779 per day)
Total 'unique visits' for the month = 8,588 (277 per day)
Visitors came from 70+ countries.
For more information, including an independent audit of our site performance, and to view the countries of origin for visitors click here.
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