News & Views

Canadian Travelers and Packaged Travel

Hassle-free travel. It sounds tempting. Just let someone plan all of your travel for you, show up at the airport, and enjoy. It’s a reality for some Canadian travelers, although destinations marketing to them should take heed.

DCI’s newest study on Canadian consumers indicates that there may still be some potential to unlock in brick and mortar advisors and tour operators who seemed to be losing ground to online travel agents (OTAs).

Let’s cut to the chase. Canadian travelers are ready to hit the road – and skies. As we enter the recovery phase post-COVID-19, DCI’s latest study illustrates how Canadian consumers are key to winning the North American market. The report, Capturing the Canadian Consumer: Insights into the Path to Purchase for Canadian Travellers, provides the information and data that will guide you to winning over this much-desired segment of travelers. For international destinations looking to capture Canadians, this data will be vital to crafting the right recovery plan.

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

While the finds are rife with lessons and takeaways, there is an important lesson for DMOs to consider when marketing their destination and investing in travel advisor and tour operator relationships. The message is clear. Do it, but be strategic. Not every Canadian traveler will be receptive to it, but knowing how your destination can align with the subsections of relevant Canadian consumers can translate into big wins overall.

If I were a rich man…

The study’s data shows that, in fact, there is little difference between affluent and less-affluent Canadian travelers in booking international vacations through a travel agent. Wealthier travelers have the means to engage a travel advisor. Less-affluent travelers want to make sure they avoid expensive mistakes by working with a professional. Everybody wins by working with a travel advisor.

What’s also important to note is that the study shows no significant change between 2017 and 2020 with regards to how many people used travel advisors. You might be thinking, “Well, so what?” For destinations and DMOs, consider this a sign of stability that you want to embrace.

With stable and consistent patronage of travel advisors among all Canadians, it’s a reassuring sign that investing in these partnerships is a beneficial choice. While so many things change day to day, knowing that a certain percentage of the market will continue to book through travel advisors, even following a dizzying pandemic, is the anchor every destination needs to stabilize its ship at sea.

Digging deeper into the data may reveal more takeaways for your destination, but the main idea is clear: any destination, whether attracting affluent or budget travelers, can capitalize on the assistance of travel advisors.

Advisors are better with age

Another takeaway is as clear as a senior’s vision after cataract surgery. Older travelers, those 65 and over, have the experience with travel advisors to know how to use them for international vacations. They grew up without OTAs and thus are largely more likely than their younger counterparts to engage with advisors. The data shows that this senior market is the most important for travel advisors, whether they are booking part or all of their travel with a trusted advisor.

For destinations that might typically attract more senior travelers, tapping into Canadian travel advisors is a step towards capturing these consumers. Campaigns, incentives, and marketing materials aimed directly at seniors, showing seniors in your destination, and outlining reasons why seniors should visit will all help travel advisors sell your destination. Avoid images and social media post that are just young and sexy. Be older and sexy! It will make it easier for travel advisors to sell your destination if it stands out for their clients.

Travel advisor use among the 65+ age group is also statistically larger than overall use in 2017, which means that, as travel becomes trickier post-COVID-19, they may be more likely than younger travelers to let someone else do all or at least some of work for them. OTAs may be on the rise, but travel advisors are strong and stable as far as their contribution to the Canadian travel market.

No need to ask. He’s a tour operator.

While travel advisors hold consumers’ hands during the process, providing options, tour operators provide a one-stop-shop for the whole package. Again, due in part to pandemic-related hurdles and a desire to escape, Canadians are looking to tour operators more than ever to plan their vacations.

Across all ages and income levels, the data indicates that more people are interested in tour operators. Think Egyptian cruises, African safaris, excursions through South Africa – Canadians are increasingly ready to hand themselves over to a tour operator and go along for the ride.

What does this mean for destinations? If tour operators are already operating, then bolster them, support them, market them as much as possible to help the attract these coveted Canadians. If tour operators haven’t yet infiltrated your destination, it’s time to see how that can change. Creating partnerships with existing or new tour operators who speak to the Canadian market will be an invaluable step in securing those Canadian dollars that we’re all dreaming of right now.

These are a few of the inferences from DCI’s new Canadian consumer study, but they are just the beginning. Again, having the data to understand what Canadian travelers want and need during these unique times will help your destination be at the top of every Canadians mind when they finally take the plunge to book their next international trip.

Still scratching your head about how you’ll ever attract Canadians to your destination? It’s about relationships and experience, and DCI has both. Get in touch with Tania Kedikian at [email protected] to learn more about engaging the Canadian market to support your recovery efforts now before it’s too late.

Written By

Tania Kedikian

A communications strategist with a love for storytelling, Tania utilizes her skillset to connect Canadian media with fascinating travel stories around the globe.

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