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Promoting Canada as an international tourism destination needs increased marketing dollars

By CO Staff @canadaone |

With a dramatic decrease in American leisure travellers coming to Canada, a new study released today by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) offers insights into why Canada is losing out to destinations like the U.S. and Europe, followed by Mexico and the Caribbean.

The top two factors causing American travellers to choose other destinations are weather and the perception that there are "other and more exotic places to go".

"We can't do anything about the weather, but we can certainly change people's perceptions about it, and about what kind of experiences Canada offers visitors," said Randy Williams, Tourism Industry Association of Canada's (TIAC) President and CEO. "And we can only do that by marketing ourselves effectively in an increasingly competitive environment."

Promotion of tourism in Canada as a tourism destination internationally is coordinated by the CTC, which leverages matching funding from the private sector. The Crown corporation currently receives $75.8 million a year from Ottawa, an amount Mr. Williams says is inadequate in the face of tough competition from destinations that have much bigger marketing budgets. Indeed, the study revealed that in the next 12 months, Canada must compete directly with the U.S. and Europe as a preferred destination for American leisure travellers, followed by the Caribbean and Mexico.

In response to the study, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) is calling on the federal government to give the Canadian Tourism Council an additional $100 million a year to help increase the number of Americans travelling to Canada.

A Grant Thornton study released last fall confirmed that is the amount needed to enable Canada to compete in international markets, attracting more visitors from the United States and around the world. The payoff, according to Grant Thornton, would be considerable: up to $4.2 billion in tourism revenue growth, yielding up to 45,500 new jobs and $620 million a year in extra federal tax revenues.

"Tourism is a key driver of economic growth and wealth creation, thus tourism marketing is an investment, not an expense," said Mr. Williams, pointing out that Canada's tourism industry, worth $57.5 billion, already keeps 1.6 million Canadians working, supports economic and community development in all regions, and generates tax revenues ($17.4 billion in 2004, including a federal share of $8.6 billion) that fund public policy priorities such as health care, public safety and infrastructure.

"Canada has what U.S. travellers say they want, but we've got to get the message out loud and clear," Mr. Williams said. "The new Canada brand launched by the Canadian Tourism Commission last year is an excellent framework for campaign development, but buying enough advertising space and air time to reach the target audience costs more than the CTC and its industry partners can afford right now."

The CTC study revealed Canada is strong in American travellers' minds on four of the five top destination attributes they seek—a peaceful and relaxing place to visit; a feeling of safety; a unique sense of place; and a feeling of exploration—but comes up short on what they perceive to be "an authentic experience". Such misperceptions, notes Mr. Williams, can be corrected through targeted tourism marketing initiatives.

The CTC study is available at

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