There is no doubt about what sells Canada to international markets: our abundance of authentic experiences from coast to coast to coast.
That was the message from experts and tourism developers from around the country and beyond who came together for Tourism Rendez-vous 2017 in Gaspé and Percé in May.
CEDEC’s first Tourism Rendez-vous was developed as part of the CEDEC Revitalization Initiative in communities throughout Quebec’s Gaspésie where tourism development is consistently rated high as an opportunity, but citizens and businesses often struggle to develop and market tourism projects.
Over three days, tourism stakeholders and small businesses learned how to maximize the economic potential related to Canada’s growing tourism industry thanks to national partners such as Destination Canada , the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), and a host of local organizations, including the Gaspé Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
Their message: Tourism marketing is not just about breathtaking landscapes; it’s the faces we see in the videos and photographs of people living those experiences that sells.
Marketing experts shared these tips and stressed the importance of using social media and being accessible online.
Participants who attended Marie-Claude Brière’s workshop brainstormed ideas on how to increase their business’s presence on social media since travelers draw from other peoples’ experience.
Social media platforms have changed how we communicate and tourism businesses absolutely must take advantage of them to reach target markets. There is huge potential in reaching the millennial travel market which accounts for over 23% of global travellers, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
As stated in CEDEC’s tourism strategy, Canada has fallen from the top 10 destinations visited by international tourists. Despite the slight decrease in the past decade, data shared by Destination Canada are helpful to assess potential markets and how to reach international travelers, including millennials, through marketing.
Last year, Canada showed a 20.6% increase in international arrivals since 2014 and almost reached the 2002 record high of number of arrivals. Developing high quality tourism products and marketing them effectively will only augment this increase and bring Canada back within the top ten ranking.
According to Tourisme Gaspésie, over 80% of travelers visiting the Gaspesie region are domestic travellers from Quebec. As stated by the Regional Tourism Association’s president “the exchange rate, price of fuel and weather conditions have incited travel within Quebec.”
When discussing international markets, one question stood out: where are the Americans? This challenge is not uncommon in Quebec’s rural communities, presumably due to perceived language barriers. By promoting quality tourism products in both official languages and showcasing English-speaking communities and their contribution to tourism, we expect to see an increase in American visitors to our communities. Best practices from the Conseil de développement économique de l’Alberta (CDEA) which markets tourism in French through Tourisme Alberta have inspired a local project to help English-speaking tourists navigate the Gaspésie.
A changing industry
Tourism development is ever changing; once you develop a product, it will morph over time to meet the wants and needs of visitors. Once again, the importance of delivering a memorable experience to visitors was brought up by Amy Powers, founding director of CruiseMaineUSA. She spoke about the cruise destination Bar Harbour, a small historical island community in Maine with a year-round population of under 6000 inhabitants that expects to welcome over 200,000 passengers in 2017.
The estimated annual economic impact—including multiplier effects— of this tourism activity on Bar Harbour is $20.2 million in local spending and it maintains 379 jobs.
“The (positive) visitor experience will drive companies to deploy more ships to the port and will bring prosperity to all,” said Powers who focuses on providing unique experiences off-the-beaten path, which results in high satisfaction and strong word-of-mouth marketing and referrals.
The Tourism Rendez-vous represented an important opportunity for local tourism stakeholders in the Gaspesie to learn from others across Canada and the US about resources they can use to start or grow a tourism business and develop quality tourism products.
It also created new connections, perhaps the catalyst for partnerships to more effectively market tourism in the Gaspesie. One such example shone through within the area’s three Mig’mac communities on the Gaspé Coast,who now see the potential of working together towards common goals to promote their cultural tourism collectively.
Through events like the Tourism Rendez-vous 2017, CEDEC works with stakeholders to support and integrate tourism products from Quebec’s English-speaking community into Quebec and Canada’s tourism offer.
A major economic driver in Canada, tourism contributes as much to this country’s wealth as agriculture, fisheries and forestry combined, making cultural tourism an important, untapped opportunity to revitalize Quebec’s rural communities.