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Canada Mission Opens New Areas of Collaboration

By Jamie Lathrop 11/12/2019

The Canada Sales and Media Mission opened up new avenues of collaboration between the Canadian market and the Golden State. These channels include important media relationships, luxury-focused tour operators, airline partnerships, and working with Asian tour operators to reach the expanding Asian-Canadian population in Western Canada.

With Canada’s mature traveler base, strong airlift and close proximity to California, it remains the number two market, in terms of visitation for California tourism. With 1.8 million visitors forecasted to visit the state in 2019, along with a 5.4% increase in airlift, the market continues to demonstrate steady growth and a strong foundation for the Golden State to be top of mind for the Canadian population.

For the first time, Visit California pursued the luxury market in Canada by hosting a standalone luxury retreat in Muskoka, Ontario — a cottage town three hours north of Toronto. This unique networking event allowed nine California partners to form strong business relationships with 11 Canadian luxury buyers.

Canada Luxury Retreat Insights:

  • Affluent Canadians travel year-round.
  • The median age of the affluent Canadian traveler is 55.
  • California is facing fierce competition from Europe (Portugal, Spain, Italy) and Asia.
  • Culinary and experiential dining resonate very well.
  • Sports and entertainment are strong travel motivators.
  • Local knowledge is critical, so DMO and DMC relationships are key.

During the trade itinerary, Visit California and destination partners had the opportunity to meet with Air Canada and WestJet airlines to discuss market nuances and areas for collaboration. Both companies offer unique opportunities for California, with Air Canada offering a brand-level partnership and WestJet providing the invaluable opportunity to promote California’s shoulder season to travelers in the nearby West.

The trade delegation also explored a new opportunity target – the Asian diaspora in Western Canada. As many know, Visit California’s overarching strategy in Canada is to divide the country into two distinct areas (East/West) and tailor messaging for each segment. Across Western Canada, the Asian population residing in British Columbia is a key audience providing new opportunity to grow market share. The Asian population in Canada is so large (about one in every five residents) that British Columbia has its own industry of Asian tour operators focused on selling travel to this consumer. Working with this tour operator network is the best way forward to grow California's share of the market. Visit California Canada spent several months recruiting key operators from this segment to meet with the California delegation during the mission, ultimately resulting in a VIP luncheon in the heart of the Asian community in Vancouver. This was the first real touch point with these key players, and the start of a healthy and long-standing relationship.

Trade Asian Operator Luncheon Insights:

  • California is viewed as a four day/short haul vacation.
  • Many clients are Mandarin and Cantonese speakers.
  • There is a need for translated collateral, website and WeChat content. Visit California’s materials were well received as useful for operators.
  • Very few operators in British Columbia focus on California as a destination. Most package Mexico, Hawaii, Caribbean and Asia.
  • There is a need for product and destination education for these operators, despite the close proximity to California.
  • Visit California’s plans for a FAM in Spring 2020 was well received by the operators.

During the media itinerary, California partners had the opportunity to engage with top media in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Highlights were found in shared experiences, including a California-inspired cooking class, media reception and media expert panel.

Media Key Insights:

  • With the downsizing of traditional media outlets and the cutbacks on travel content and the traditional travel editor/section, Visit California and its partners need to expand outreach to lifestyle and niche contacts.
  • Connections with media that do live broadcast segments on Canadian morning and daytime TV are a great way to reach a large audience with great storytelling and visuals at little (hosting) to no cost.
  • Reaching millennials in Toronto means growing our network of influencers prominent in the market.
  • Calgary is overlooked by many other destinations and the media there are appreciative of and excited about our presence in-market.
  • There is value in thinking outside the box and pitching niche publications that generally do not cover travel with interesting travel related stories (i.e. accessible travel).
  • Road trips resonate strongly with Western Canadians, whether it is driving down the coast from Canada or flying into California and renting a car. 

Between the relationships forged, insights gained and discovery of new opportunities, the 2019 Canada Sales & Media Mission was a success. With a focus on strong partnerships, targeting of niche groups and key media relationships, Visit California hopes to showcase California’s diverse product offering and continue to grow California's market share.

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