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5 Travel Insights as US Border Reopens To Canadians

It’s finally happening! As the Canadian and U.S. border reopens finally, welcoming vaccinated travelers, U.S. destination marketing organizations can now target Canadian travelers more directly.

The road back to reopening was bumpy, with Canada opening to American travelers first on August 9. Now, however, Canadians shuttered in their nation for months and months can imagine a getaway to their southern neighbor.

For destinations in the U.S., it’s a chance to capture some of that international spending that’s been locked away since the pandemic began. Of course any destination needs to have a clear landing page or resource page for Canadian travelers that outlines the COVID protocols and status in the destination, but marketing a U.S. destination needs to go beyond underscoring safety measures.

To start thinking about targeting Canadian travelers and Canadian travel media, U.S. destinations need to understand some of the peculiarities and challenges that may not have existed in a pre-pandemic world. These five insights are a good springboard for all of that.

1. Keep the news at the forefront

The travel sentiment in Canada seems to change hourly, so having a good pulse on what’s making headlines is essential. Tapping into research to understand what Canadians generally are feeling and what media are thinking is essential to creating a successful strategy. 

Optics in Canada aren’t quite the same in the U.S., and issues regarding “travel shaming” have really hampered a lot of travel media from publishing rampantly. Understanding this, however, will allow you to tread lightly and pitch the right type of stories in the best manner possible. It requires staying updated on the trends that are ever-changing in Canada.

With different attitudes towards vaccines and COVID variants, Canadians may be a bit more conservative in their travels than U.S. travelers. As borders reopen, however, they’ll finally have the chance to dust off their passports again, so be prepared to make sure your destination is in front of them.

2. Sell your differences

U.S. destinations are facing the need to differentiate themselves from a very similar market. Why come to the United States when you can stay in Canada? That’s the million dollar question destination marketers need to answer.

With many Canadians looking to island getaways and European escapes, leverage the experiences in your destination that mimic facets of these places. Position it as an attractive alternative that gives visitors memorable experiences without having to take a long-haul flight.

Consider your destination’s unique cuisine. Its oddities. Its quirky experiences. Museums and hotels alone won’t lure Canadians south. They have those up north. They want to come and create a memory that they can’t create in their home country, and destination marketers need to be extremely aware of this.

With the delta variant continuing to swirl and uncertainty as high as ever, the push to attract Canadians has to be big to convince them to find their passports as borders reopen.

3. Road trips need to be special

More specifically, tap into road trips, but we have a caveat. While long-haul travel may be slow to pick up, Canadians who have been exploring their own nation by car may be receptive to doing the same thing in the United States. But it has to be unique.

When everyone has spent the year hearing about road trips in their own home nation, it’s a challenge to make the same sort of experience sound worth it in another country. Same roads. Same experiences. Same gas stations or petrol pumps, as it were.

Instead, tap into unique experiences like the oddities on Route 66 or the U.S. National Parks that set the United States apart. Canadian travelers still want to be safe and outdoors, but they want to feel like they are doing something special by crossing the border. If it’s just a Canadian road trip at a different latitude, well, don’t expect to hear many polite accents from the north anytime soon. 

4. Make the outdoors truly great

Adventure travel is built into Canadian DNA, it seems. Precisely because Canada has so much outdoor space, there are tons of stories about domestic travel in the market right now. Pitching your destination’s hiking trails, therefore, may fall flat as borders reopen.

Instead, destinations have to find their most noteworthy and unique outdoor experiences — or create them if needed — to convince Canadians that it’s worth the trek.

Unique accommodations in the outdoors, remote or hidden natural landscapes, or ways to interact with a space by foraging or paddle boarding, for example, could be alternatives to the hum drum sales pitch of hiking and biking.

5. Remember the French-speaking press

Nearly a quarter of Canada’s population is French-speaking, most of whom are based in the province of Quebec. When reaching out to Canadian media, marketers and destinations who want to maximize their results must think in two languages. If you can translate pitches – do it! The French media are more likely to respond if you pitch them something in French, and it reduces the chance that they might just delete your email.

If you are unaware of the nuances of French Canadians, know that they are also culturally different in many ways. They have different expectations than their English-speaking compatriots. (You can learn more in this research study by DCI:

Quebec is also implementing a vaccine passport of sorts for any Canadian looking to visit the province – so that’s just something to also keep in mind. Just because it’s part of the country doesn’t mean it’s easy to enter or exit. Push for Quebec travelers to choose your U.S. destination instead of heading to a neighboring province since there will be hurdles to jump either way.

 Looking to reach more Candians? DCI has more than 60 years of experience with destination marketing and our proprietary research into the Canadian market guides our strategies. Get in touch with [email protected] learn more about marketing towards Canadian travelers.

Written By

Ashley Kotar

Ashley Kotar is a destination marketing and public relations practitioner who is an ambassador for the power of Millennial travel dollar.

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