Where’s Our Business Going?

with Martha Chapman

Susie Grynol, Charlotte Bell, Jada Graves, Laurel Greatrix and Dorothy Dowling

Colleagues and co-panelists
Dowling and Grynol

If you want to know what’s happening in the Canadian travel industry, you needn’t go much further than some of the most powerful leaders in the biz.  All of them women, we should add.

That’s what we learned this week at the 9th annual Leisure Travel Summit, hosted by Best Western Hotels & Resorts.  On the panel were Susie Grynol, President of the Hotel Association of Canada, Charlotte Bell, President and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of Canada, Laurel Greatrix, Director of Global Communication for TripAdvisor, Jada Graves of the Brand Fuse division of US News and World Report and Dorothy Dowling, Senior Marketing Officer and Senior V.P. of Best Western.

Over a wide-ranging number of topics, the ladies shared their insight and expertise and we all left better informed as to Canadian travellers, what makes them tick, and what turns them off. Here then, are 9 of the gems of knowledge I gleaned:

  1. Last year, tourism injected $91.6 billion into our economy and employed 1.7 million people. Tourism is the highest employer of youth in the country.

  2. 65% of Canadians who had planned trips to the US this year have changed their intentions to domestic or overseas travel. Of those, most cite the strong US/weak Canadian dollar, but the number 2 reason is Trump.

  3. When it comes to loyalty programs, Canadians are “points junkies” says Dowling. What do we love? At Best Western, it’s free overnights, followed by gift cards. What do we hate? Programs with expiry dates and those with blackout dates (Best Western’s top tier of rewards has no blackout dates).  

  4. Two thirds of Canadians start their trip research with a visit to TripAdvisor, which gets 390 million views per month worldwide. The site now boasts 500 million reviews. Hoteliers who respond to reviews are 25% more likely to get bookings.

  5. It’s not just boomers who are into learning and experiential holidays.  15% of millennials have done one.

  6. Number 1 in importance (even over free WiFi) for business travellers? “Good service.”

  7. Yes Canadians love their affordable, sunny vacations to Cuba, the D.R. and Mexico. But look for more “off the beaten path” experiences to become trendy in affordable destinations such as Colombia and South Africa.

  8. Top regions in demand in Canada? Ontario, BC, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. 

  9. In future we’ll be seeing changes in how we communicate with our hotels, even during our stay.  Facilities such as the spa or gym will ask for your instant input as you leave them. You may have already seen posts with happy/indifferent/unhappy face buttons to push in airports.  Dowling predicts more texting communication (e.g. to request fresh towels) as opposed to today’s phoning down from your room. As Charlotte Bell said with a laugh: “It’s just like the Jetsons!”

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