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A Push for Domestic Tourism in Canada as Retailers and other Businesses are Impacted due to the Pandemic

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Canada’s tourism industry is calling on Canadians to take the 2021 Tourism Pledge to travel in Canada – an invitation to come together as a country and support our local tourism destinations, businesses and employees.

The seven-day Tourism Week, which launched Sunday May 23, is an important time to highlight the resilience of the industry through this unprecedented time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact overall on tourism in Canada and that has impacted businesses such as retailers, restaurants and hotels that each year rely on the industry for their survival. 

A lack of visitors, both internationally and from within Canada, has seen a significant decline in sales for businesses in those sectors.

Tourism Week 2021 (Photo TourismCounts.ca)

Those particular businesses in places such as Banff, Alberta and Whistler, B.C. have been hit hard in the past year and a half. 

Accommodation, food and beverage, and retail in Canada’s largest cities have also felt the tough times with a significant decrease in visitor spending. As urban expert Richard White, a blogger with the Everyday Tourist, points out: you only have a robust, vibrant downtown when you have tourists.

With advisories against non-essential travel, border restrictions, and strict lockdowns in several provinces and territories, the operating revenue of travel arrangement and reservation services plummeted by 61.5 per cent in 2020, according to Statistics Canada. The accommodation services industry was also severely affected, as operating revenue fell by almost half (-46.1 per cent) in 2020. 

Prior to the pandemic, the tourism industry in Canada was a $105 billion sector which accounted for two per cent of Canada’s GDP and employed 1.8 million workers.

Beth Potter, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said Tourism Week is about recognizing the sector’s resilience and perseverance through this unprecedented time. 

She said the association and other groups involved in tourism in the country continue to advocate for the reopening of Canada’s borders but “we’re asking Canadians to choose to travel in Canada first to support our industry and kickstart the recovery.”

“We know that 80 per cent of Canadians plan to travel as restrictions are released and our focus (during Tourism Week) is to make sure we do that first in Canada. We invite Canadians to start planning now and take the pledge to travel in Canada, post it on social media and encourage their family, friends and followers to do the same,” added Potter.

Destination Canada has launched two new initiatives to inspire Canadians to travel domestically as restrictions allow. 

Heartbeat of Canada: Tourism Anthem video

Produced by Canadian director, Mark Zibert, the industry anthem video spotlights the makers, performers, business owners, and staff who make up Canada’s tourism sector. The people featured are not actors; they are tourism workers and among the one in 10 Canadians whose jobs are tied to the sector. Canadian drummer Sharon Rose Ransom is central to the video, and delivers a powerful drum solo that’s full of energy, symbolizing hope and a desire for rebirth. The prominence of drums in the video reflects Canada’s spirit and “heartbeat”, as an instrument of celebration and motivation—representing an industry that, despite facing hardship, remains positive, explained Destination Canada. Download the video here.

Inspiring Domestic travel: Postcard campaign

Destination Canada Postcards

Destination Canada is inviting Canadians to send a postcard to the family and friends they have missed during the pandemic. The initiative was inspired by Destination Canada’s research, which shows that 39 per cent of Canadians expect their first trip will be to visit loved ones and friends. The series of postcards are inspired by destinations from coast to coast to coast and can be sent in French and English. Canadians can access the postcards online, then have them printed and mailed anywhere in Canada. This effort is meant to inspire Canadians to explore and enjoy travel in our country, when restrictions lift, it explained. You can view and complete a postcard here.

“We have seen the strength and resilience of the tourism sector shine through in what has been an incredibly challenging 14 months. Tourism is central to our quality of life offering rich social, economic and cultural benefits to all Canadians. The Government of Canada is proud to have invested $15 billion towards tourism, culture and arts, since the onset of the pandemic with an additional $1 billion announced for tourism in the 2021 Federal budget. In recognition of tourism week, I encourage all Canadians to embrace our magnificent country and consider the endless potential of the new and familiar destinations waiting to be discovered,” said Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, in a statement.

“From baristas and brewers to designers and festival directors to historians and hotel owners, the richness of our diversity—and the heartbeat of this country—can all be found in Canada’s tourism industry. Tourism week is a great opportunity to remind Canadians about the impact of our industry—supporting tourism means enhancing the quality of life for all Canadians. Despite the enormous challenges faced by the sector, we have a resilient industry that is ready to welcome Canadians back into our hotels, airplanes, tour buses, museums, restaurants, and beyond, once restrictions are lifted,” said Marsha Walden, President and CEO, Destination Canada.

“There is hope on the horizon for all of us, we believe. We’re reminding all Canadians about the value of tourism in their communities and we hope to inspire them to travel in Canada this year.”

If Canadians shift two-thirds of their planned spend on international leisure travel towards domestic tourism; it will make up for the estimated $19 billion shortfall currently facing our visitor economy, help sustain 150,000 jobs and accelerate recovery, according to Destination Canada.

Tourism Week 2021 (Photo TourismCounts.ca)

Darren Reeder, Board Advisor, Tourism Industry Association of Alberta, said it’s really important to encourage people to spend generously in what they do.

“I think beyond asking people to take travel pledges and to get excited about experiencing things in their backyard, it’s really summoning this idea that we have to support local. It’s never been more important to bring back our way of life, to bring back our communities and to support our friends and families in a resumption to normal work activities,” he said.

Walden suggested that people also think about urban centres in their travel plans. 

“Canada has a unique set of cities that are unlike most cities in the world. We are filled with green spaces and outdoor activities and parks and lakes and canals. The kind of urban experience you can have in Canada is really very different to most places in the world and most Canadians are eager to flee the city and get out into the countryside but consider your neighbouring cities as another option for travel this summer. They really need your support and they’re incredible experiences. You’ll find lots of outdoor activities,” said Walden.

Potter also asked that Canadians get vaccinated as soon as they can and that will help the country get to the point where it can start to see restrictions ease.

Travel to Canada continues to be impacted through the third wave of the pandemic. The most recent data from the federal agency indicates that arrivals to Canada from the United States and other countries were down 83.7 per cent in March compared with March 2020.

The number of non-residents from countries other than the United States entering Canada declined by 81.5 per cent year over year to 27,600 in March.

Travel originating from Europe (-92.1 per cent) and Asia (-70.0 per cent), Canada’s largest markets, were down significantly compared with the same month in 2020. Travel from other major markets also remained low throughout March.

In March, US residents made 95,900 trips to Canada, down 84.3 per cent from the same month last year. The number of US residents arriving by plane declined by 96.8 per cent year-over-year to 4,500 in March.

Car arrivals dropped 79.9 per cent year over year to 90,100 in March. 

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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