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from yesterday's Globe and Mail. Link:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/serv...isits+has+tourism+firms+pulling+out+all+stops



ECONOMY: 'NOT A CHEAP PLACE TO COME TO'

Decline in U.S. visits has tourism firms pulling out all stops

Trips to Canada hit an all-time low


RICHARD BLACKWELL and BERTRAND MAROTTE AND WENDY STUECK

May 21, 2008

TORONTO, MONTREAL, VANCOUVER -- The town of Pemberton, B.C., is counting on locals and Albertans to replace absent American tourists. Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival is selling cheaper ticket packages and stepping up a U.S. advertising campaign. Casino Windsor, just across from Detroit, is rebranding and beefing up convention facilities. And Quebec's government is targeting wealthy U.S. travellers.

Across Canada, tourism operators are bending over backward to try to keep the flow of U.S. visitors coming this summer, or to replace them with other travellers. But it's an uphill battle in the face of serious declines in cross-border travel by Americans.

Statistics Canada reported yesterday that the number of travellers to Canada has fallen to a record low, mainly because of a drop in U.S. visits.

In March, foreigners made 2.3 million trips here, 12.4 per cent fewer than last year and the lowest number since Statscan started to keep track in 1972.

While the number of offshore visitors - those not from the United States - is flat, it's the 15-per-cent annual drop in trips to Canada from the U.S. that made the biggest dent in the overall numbers, because Americans are by far this country's biggest tourist customers.

Americans seem most hesitant to make single-day car trips to Canada. Those numbers have been spiralling downward for years, and in March hit 730,000 - an enormous decline from 2.3 million in early 2001.

The high level of the Canadian dollar is the key reason, said Statscan analyst Paul Durk, although he acknowledged there are other factors.

Increased border-crossing rules for Americans - such as the need for a passport or another secure document to return to the United States - aren't helping, and neither are the high price of gas and a generally weakened U.S. economy.

But it is the level of the Canadian dollar, which is up nearly 50 per cent relative to the U.S. dollar since 2002, that has changed Canada from a low-cost vacation hot spot to a more expensive proposition.

"The challenge is that the U.S. represents about 50 per cent of all travel into Canada," said Shannon Wilkinson, vice-president of marketing at tour packager Exclusively Canada Ltd. in North Vancouver. "There has been a change in daily cross-border behaviour, the main reason being the high Canadian dollar. Canada's not a cheap place to come to."

At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Southwestern Ontario, administrative director Anita Gaffney said U.S. bookings are down about 13 per cent this year. A survey conducted by the festival found the high dollar was the biggest factor.

In response, Stratford is heavily promoting discounted ticket packages, and pushing the fact that the city is not far from the border.

"We're investing more money in our marketing in the United States," Ms. Gaffney said. "We're putting all of our best initiatives in place to try to get on top of it for this year."

Down the road at Casino Windsor, a huge redevelopment project is set to open in June, when the operation changes its name to Caesars Windsor.

The number of U.S. visitors has been declining in recent years, so the casino - owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and operated by Harrah's, which owns the Caesars name - decided to expand far beyond gambling, said communications director Holly Ward.

A 5,000-seat theatre with big-name acts, 100,000 square feet of convention space, and a new hotel tower, along with the well-known Caesars brand, "should give U.S. customers another reason to visit," she said.

In Quebec, to counter the declining "rubber-tire market" of U.S. visitors coming from the traditional New England point of origin, the provincial government's Tourism Ministry launched an ad campaign in April that targets a more upscale, passport-holding, airport-using crowd.

Quebec is advertising on the bottom of the flip-down trays of 63 US Airways planes, said Michel Couturier, general director of marketing at the ministry. The government found there is less of a decline, or even an increase, in visitors to Quebec from more distant markets such as California, so it is repositioning the Quebec "brand" in the U.S., Mr. Couturier said.

In Pemberton, about a 20-minute drive north of Whistler, "it seems like after 9/11, there's been hit after hit after hit," said David MacKenzie, a councillor and president of the tourism association.

With much of its summer traffic coming from the United States, Pemberton is vulnerable to highway slowdowns, higher gas prices and tougher border security, he said. The response from the town was to step up marketing in British Columbia and nearby Alberta.

"In our area, British Columbians are our best customers, as well as our neighbours from Alberta," Mr. MacKenzie said. Still, Canadian travellers tend not to stay in the area as long as U.S. travellers, who typically spend two or three days, he said.

In Victoria, the city's tourism organization is sending a delegation to San Francisco in early June, pitching direct flights on United Airlines between San Francisco and Victoria that begin next month. California and Washington State are target markets for Victoria, said Tourism Victoria president Rob Gialloreto.

Marketing to domestic travellers is a good strategy for operators who are losing U.S. customers, but it's not going to fill the gap left by Americans who stay home, said Alex Fritsche, a senior economist at the Conference Board of Canada.

"There just aren't enough Canadians to go around to make up for the shortfall from the U.S.," he said.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
An article from today's Globe (with a headline writer who apparently does not know that Champagne is in France). Link:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/serv...OURISM22/TPStory/?query=state+of+B.C.+tourism



STATE OF B.C. TOURISM

Champagne tours popping while day trips long


IAN BAILEY AND ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

May 22, 2008

VANCOUVER -- From the heights of heli-skiing, the tourism industry is maintaining altitude for Banff-based Canadian Mountain Holidays.

But from the less-lofty heights of Stanley Park, business is plodding ever slower for Gerry O'Neil and his Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours.

The contrast speaks to a trend in tourism these days, as the relatively cheap options of same-day trips take a hit while the skid is less severe for the upmarket options of overnight travel.

Consider the case of Canadian Mountain Holidays. For the 2009 season, the company has sold out its $10,000-a-week heli-skiing trips it offers out of its dozen B.C. lodges.
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The Globe and Mail

Sales co-ordinator Tanya Skalbania said that although bookings by U.S. tourists are down about 3 per cent for the 2009 season, the company hasn't noticed a dramatic drop in the market, which usually makes up about 45 per cent of its clients.

"We're specialized," she said. "Heli-skiing, there's only certain places in the world where you can do this. ... It's part of their dreams."

That's in contrast to Mr. O'Neil's tours, which, for $26.99, gives guided rides through Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver.

Mr. O'Neil said he has seen about an 8-per-cent drop in U.S. "rubber-tire traffic" and a more modest 4-per-cent decline in visitors coming off cruise ships.

He cites the usual suspects: high gas prices and the faltering U.S. dollar.

"Obviously it's the fuel. I mean, I think it's a no-brainer," he said. "They are more on a tighter budget, unfortunately. I mean, those days are over when our exchange was 40 per cent, 45 per cent. ... They were just throwing money at you. It's not the case any more."

Mr. O'Neil is feeling the pinch in a noticeable decline of U.S. residents who drive here for short-haul trips. There were 730,000 single-day car trips to Canada from the United States in March, down from a high of 2.3 million in 2001.

In March, the last month for which statistics are available, foreigners made 2.3 million visits to Canada, which is not only 12.4-per-cent lower than last year but the lowest since Statistics Canada began tracking such trips in 1972.

Tourists on short-haul road trips from the United States make up about a third of Mr. O'Neil's clientele. If things continue like this - and the hassles associated with needing a passport or other secure document to cross the border don't help - the result could be a $55,000 loss for his 26-year-old company.

Overnight visits from the United States are down 5.5 per cent, but the decline in day trips has been even more significant because they tend to be more spontaneous and more directly affected by economic factors, said Stephen Pearce, vice-president of leisure travel and destination manager for Tourism Vancouver. "The overnights don't tend to be quite as elastic," he said.

But he said the amount spent by each U.S. tourist has actually gone up. "American travellers that have been discouraged are the ones that are a little more economically conscious," he said. "The ones that are continuing to come here are a little more affluent."

Will Harding, a spokesman for the Vancouver-based Canadian Tourism Commission, a Crown corporation that promotes Canadian tourism, says it's a "difficult time" for Canadian tourism operators focused on U.S. consumers from the border states.

"There are less U.S. consumers getting into their cars and driving into Canada," Mr. Harding said. "The good news is we're still doing relatively well [from] the U.S. markets where U.S. consumers have to fly into Canada."

Thompson Okanagan Tourism spokesman Miles Prodan said there has been a decline in less-affluent travel in the region in favour of what he calls "fully independent travellers," who disdain motor coaches and bus tours to rent their own RVs and plan their own trips.

"They have got more money to spend," said Mr. Prodan, describing aging baby boomers, without children in tow, who are big spenders in the region's tourism sector.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Also from today's Globe and Mail. Link:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/serv...query=city+bucks+trend+with+homemade+tourists



TOURISM

City bucks trend with homemade tourists

Fewer Americans may be crossing the border, but the city had a record year for Canadian visitors


JEFF GRAY

May 22, 2008

While tourism in other parts of the country appears to be struggling as fewer Americans make the trip north, the industry's boosters in Canada's largest city insist Toronto is bucking the trend and making up for the decrease by attracting more visitors from the rest of Canada.

Statistics Canada said this week that the number of people from the United States entering Canada declined in the first three months of 2008. But tourism officials in Toronto and Mayor David Miller played down the warning, pointing to 2007, which they say was a record year for the city in attracting visitors.

Tourism Toronto, the city's industry-funded destination marketing agency, says its numbers - which it says it compiles from estimates and raw data from Statscan and the Conference Board of Canada - do show that the city attracted 4.3 per cent fewer American tourists staying overnight in 2007, a decline attributed to the strong Canadian dollar and new passport requirements.

But the number of domestic visitors was up 2.8 per cent, and overall, overnight visits to Toronto rose by 0.9 per cent last year, the agency says, claiming an estimated 10.66 million visitors that it says is a record.
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The Globe and Mail

The mayor praised Tourism Toronto for its efforts and said word of the city's new cultural attractions, such as the opera house, is spreading.

"Tourism's up in Toronto. And the lesson from that is you can't just rely on U.S. travellers. You have to broaden your focus," Mr. Miller said, adding that Tourism Toronto has done a good job selling the city to markets in the U.S. and overseas, such as same-sex couples eager to visit a tolerant city where they can get married.

Andrew Weir, Tourism Toronto's vice-president of communications, argued that Toronto is a "resilient" tourism destination, although he said Statscan's numbers show travel to Ontario as a whole as flat, not in decline.

He said Tourism Toronto has worked aggressively in U.S. cities to attract travellers looking for an urban destination, and less sensitive to the strong dollar. "Our focus is on travellers for whom changes in the currency aren't the determining factor in their trip. ... They'll stay in some nice hotels, and eat some good meals and probably go to theatre," he said.

Mr. Weir pointed to numbers from Smith Travel Research, a U.S. firm that surveys hotels, that show hotel occupancy in Toronto up 1.5 per cent in 2007 to 68.3 per cent, ranking the city 13th among major North American destinations.

Another sign, Mr. Weir said, is that the average cost of a hotel room in the city hit $138.27 in 2007, making Toronto the eighth most expensive place to rest your head in Canada and the U.S., according to Smith Travel Research.

Toronto has also benefited from targeting the convention business, a priority for the city's tourism promoters. Mr. Weir said that while Toronto remains strong in this area, these events are booked years in advance, meaning the 2003 SARS outbreak is still affecting the business this year. But future bookings are growing.

He also said Toronto is attracting more tourists from farther afield, with 15-per-cent increases in 2007 in visitors coming from Mexico and China, and a 2-per- cent rise in visitors from Britain.

SEEING OUR SIGHTS

Overnight visitors spent more than $4-billion in Toronto last year, according to estimates compiled by tourism officials. The SARS disease outbreak of 2003 frightened away many tourists and convention planners, but the numbers have rebounded - except for the stubborn decline in overnight visits by Americans.

OVERNIGHT VISITORS TO TORONTO, in millions.
2002 2007
U.S. 2.32 2.17
Domestic 6.51 7.07
Overseas 1.17 1.40
TOTAL 9.99 million 10.66 million

Numbers may not add to due 100 due to rounding

OVERNIGHT VISITORS' SPENDING, in $ billions.
2002 2007
U.S. 1.12 1.12
Domestic 1.67 1.89
Overseas 0.83 1.10
TOTAL $3.62-billion $4.12-billion

OVERNIGHT VISITORS,

by trip purpose, %
2007
Pleasure* 69%
Business 23%
Other 8%

* includes visiting friends and relatives

SOURCE: TORONTOTOURISM.COM
 

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Casino Windsor has changed hands, and is now a Cesar's Palace. This isn't to draw in more Americans, it's to change the face of Windsor Ontario in general.
It's the best Casino resort in the entire country.
 

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TOURISM

OVERNIGHT VISITORS TO TORONTO, in millions.
2002 2007
U.S. 2.32 2.17
Domestic 6.51 7.07
Overseas 1.17 1.40
TOTAL 9.99 million 10.66 million

Numbers may not add to due 100 due to rounding

OVERNIGHT VISITORS' SPENDING, in $ billions.
2002 2007
U.S. 1.12 1.12
Domestic 1.67 1.89
Overseas 0.83 1.10
TOTAL $3.62-billion $4.12-billion

OVERNIGHT VISITORS,

by trip purpose, %
2007
Pleasure* 69%
Business 23%
Other 8%

* includes visiting friends and relatives

SOURCE: TORONTOTOURISM.COM


If you crunch the numbers, Americans accounted for 52.8% of foreign tourist receipts in 2007 down from 57.4% in 2002. Although American tourist receipts have stagnated at $1.12 Billion, we should look on the bright side of things. The health of our tourism industry is becoming less dependent on one source country. Tourism receipts from non-American foreigners jumped 32.5%! That is very very encouraging.

It indicates that Toronto may be succeeding in marketing itself as a compelling global tourism destination. This is the holy grail of tourism so we should be very pleased by this development. American tourism will always be important, but it is the development of non-American foreign tourism that will give the industry long term prosperity and stability. Lets hope the trend continues and non-American foreign tourism receipts climb to $1.46 Billion and 1.67 million overnight stays by 2012.

My data was derived in the following way:
52.8%: 1.12/1.12+1.10
57.4%: 1.12/1.12+0.83
32.5%: 1.10-0.83/0.83

How does Toronto, and other large Canadian cities stack up to some other global tourism destinations? London, New York, Sydney, Paris? I imagine we have work to do, but Toronto certainly seems to be headed in the right direction.
 
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