Canada Looks to Lure More U.S. Tourists

A $1.8 million campaign by the Canadian Tourism Commission seeks to entice U.S. leisure travelers to Alberta, Ontario, Calgary, Montreal and Quebec City this fall and winter. Tactics include the Internet, e-mail, sweepstakes, public relations, promotions, print ads and partnerships.

“It's one of the first times that we've done a fully integrated campaign utilizing a number of media,” said Mark Schwilden, director of U.S. marketing at the Ottawa-based commission.

The effort to promote the romance and cuisine of Canada took wing after acknowledging a few facts: Revenue last year from overnight U.S. visitors to Canada rose 12.3 percent to $4 billion, while overnight trips climbed 4.8 percent to 13.6 million. A favorable exchange rate helped increase average spending by U.S. visitors 7.1 percent in 2001.

Also, Canada last year captured 30.2 percent of the U.S. outbound travel market. The tourism commission said 44.2 percent of the revenue from U.S. leisure travelers comes in the third quarter, or the summer; 27.2 percent in April to June, 15.7 percent in October to December and 12.9 percent in January to March.

“The United States represents Canada's largest international market,” Schwilden said. “Therefore, the United States, in terms of an international market, is the primary market for Canadian tourism.”

Key to this effort is Visiting the Web site and booking packages is the primary call to action in all communications.

The site breaks packages into fall getaways, winter escapes and romantic interludes. On the same fall home page are links to a Getaway to Canada sweepstakes through Dec. 31, Air Canada vacation packages and Marriott hotels, resorts and suites.

Site users can sign up for online newsletters and order a brochure. They can explore an interactive map of Canada and link to the main portal page.

Copy on the various pages illustrates the charms of the regions and cities pushed by the commission. And the strength of the U.S. dollar is a bonus: $1.55 Canadian for $1 U.S.

In essence, the site urges consumers to experience a “feast for the senses” through the featured packages. A chance to play cowboy in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta costs $133 for two nights in the fall package. Three nights in a mountain resort in Calgary cost $350 per person. And a romantic two nights in Montreal cost $225 per person. Round-trip airfare and hotel stays are included.

“In terms of Canada's positioning in the U.S., we've begun placing increased focus on targeting consumers at the psychographics level, based on Canada's most unique attributes,” Schwilden said.

Among these attributes are a close-to-home international four-season destination experience and unique culture. So while the Canadian product is similar to the U.S. experience, cultural differences are a reason to visit the Great White North.

“Go to cities like Montreal and Quebec City,” Schwilden said. “There's no city or cultural feel like that anywhere in the U.S. It's sort of like you're in Europe.”

To make life easy, visitors can book the packages through the same site.

“Primary research shows that 50 percent of all visitors to a destination Web site have one destination in mind, and the rest have three or four in mind,” said Greg Klassen, director of e-marketing at the commission. “So what we wanted to do with our Web site is to really inspire and compel people to choose Canada as a destination.”

Sixteen-page inserts in the October newsstand and subscriber issues of Conde Naste Traveler, Architectural Digest, Gourmet and the New Yorker point to the site. So do broadcast promotions in New York and Los Angeles.

Banners on the New York Times Co.'s and sites, and the network link to The Travelocity relationship includes contests on that site.

E-mail is another acquisition tool. The tourism commission Oct. 13 dropped e-mails to 50,000 consumers. Names came from lists of people who were likely to travel outside the United States in the next 18 months and for whom Canada was a top choice.

“We'll do tracking on the test,” Klassen said. “We'll see how well it pulls as a result of our Web efforts, and we'll make a decision.”

The commission will send e-mail to 250,000 U.S. consumers should that list prove responsive.

Retail partnerships with Samsonite Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are expected to drive traffic online as well. More than 200 Samsonite luggage stores will let consumers take one of 2,000 free destination guides, 50,000 hang tags and 100,000 brochures. Visitors can complete sweepstakes forms, too.

Prizes are six trips to the featured Canadian destinations, each valued at $5,000.

Blast Radius, Toronto, handled the Web site. Vickers & Benson Arnold in Toronto and Chicago helped with print advertising and online media. International Travel Communications, Warren, NJ, was responsible for e-mail marketing.

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