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Getting There and Staying There: What Canadians Want

Canadian consumers are the new darlings of the North American market, having mastered the pandemic in a way that will allow Canadians to start planning long-haul trips sooner than later. For destinations looking to capture these travelers, it’s time to invest in some education to know what Canadians want. DCI’s latest study, Capturing the Canadian Consumer: Insights into the Path to Purchase for Canadian Travellers, unlocks the data that will help DMOs understand where those Canadians are looking, what they are looking for, and how to reach them.

The second edition of this Canadian consumer study builds on DCI’s 2017 study, with brand new survey data from 1500 Canadians, highlights on wealthier Canadian travelers, and perspectives on challenges brought on by the recent pandemic.

While COVID-19 has halted the travel industry, it hasn’t stopped Canadians from dreaming about and even planning travel. Canadian spending on outbound tourism was on the rise in recent years, and although the pandemic has stunted this growth momentarily, there’s every reason to trust that Canadian travel will rebound.

Knowing the Canadian market at this crucial and unique time is key, and DCI’s report hands it to you. Among the key takeaways this time around is that, compared to previous data from 2017, Canadian consumers are looking in very specific places for their experiences.

Direct bookings vs Travel Advisors

First, it’s pivotal to know where Canadian travelers want to book their escapes. Canadians, like most consumers, are increasingly self-sufficient when planning their trips. More than ever, they say they are planning their own travel, but are likely to use a multitude of tools to do that, even tapping into tour operators and travel advisors when needed. There’s no one single place Canadians are looking to travel plan.

Interestingly, however, travelers under 65 years old are increasingly looking to online travel agents – or OTAs – to plan their trip. This significant rise in OTA use signals one thing to destinations: it’s time to reevaluate your relationships with OTAs, if they exist at all.

Expedia and Kayak are just two of the well-known OTAs that Canadians are flocking to for bookings. Your destination needs to stand out among all of the others that fill these sites. Creating a relationship with them requires some up-front effort, reaching out personally to those who work there and who are in a position to actually do something.

What might this relationship look like? Think cross-promotion. Hold an exclusive webinar or event with one OTA at a time. Work exclusively with a carefully chosen OTA and go all-in. Any sort of exclusive partnership, access or information that you can provide will help your destination float above the waves of OTAs that are selling destinations worldwide. Any nudge towards exclusivity to make an OTA your new ally will be a foot in the door to capturing Canadian consumers as they look to booking.

To Layover or Not to Layover

Another consideration for destinations is how you connect to the Canadian market in terms of transportation. You might think you are too far to attract these travelers, or that they’ll never want to make a connecting flight. Think again.

The data shows that Canadians are eager to get into the air again and are fearless about a connecting flight. While there are numerous considerations to make based on the data, the message is clear: factor in flight paths when coordinating with OTAs, who also sell flights to travelers.

Take it one step further and consider how the data might help your destination partner with airlines. While Canadians are booking increasingly with OTAs, they still book directly with airlines – albeit less than before – especially as the pandemic has forced new levels of flexibility on many of the biggest names in the sky. Use this to your advantage to create a rapport with any relevant airline to create deals or campaigns targeting Canadians who are entirely willing to make the journey through the clouds. Partnerships are going to be key moving forward, as the pandemic has shown us that the travel industry can’t operate when one piece of the puzzle is missing.

A place to hang their hats

Finally, once travelers arrive in a destination, it’s best to know what they are expecting in terms of accommodations. With bookings on OTAs providing everything from home-stays to luxury hotels, Canadians looking toward 2021 are leaning more heavily to traditional accommodations, like hotels and motels.

Homestay sites like Airbnb have not fallen to the wayside despite their rise in popularity over the years, but COVID has changed something in Canadian travelers. It’s understandable that increased demands for safety and cleaning procedures have left Canadian consumers trusting hotels and motels more. They have the staff and the reputations that travelers trust. While Airbnb has gone to great lengths to ensure safety, Canadians want and are embracing the comfort and reassurance that name brand accommodations are affording them.

From chain properties to new boutique hotels, your destination should focus on them all when marketing towards Canadians. It’s just one part of a multi-pronged approach to make sure Canadian consumers are paying attention to your destination. Providing packages and amenities tailored to Canadian travelers will only further entice them to book and, hopefully, stay a little longer.

Feeling confident that your destination will attract Canadian travelers, but need some reassurance? DCI has over 60 years of experience marketing to what Canadians want, and our newest study demonstrates, once again, how we take a smart approach to our strategies. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn more about how DCI’s data-driven insight can help your destination win over the lucrative Canadian market.

Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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