For the remainder of 2020, international tourism to Canada is likely to remain fraught with difficulty at least, and in some cases impossible. This will force many tourism operators to pivot to a domestic tourism market.
The ‘hyper-local’ market is likely to restart first – travellers from within a one to two-hour radius. These might be people driving to a local destination to ski for a day. Thankfully, in several provinces, a substantial proportion of the domestic market also from within province – in British Columbia, 70% of Canadian travellers are from BC itself. There will also be a significant proportion of travellers who might usually be taking their vacations overseas – maybe to Asia or Europe – who now are planning perhaps multiple trips within their own province. There is likely to be more resistance to getting back on planes.
Operators should consider the following when looking to pivot towards a domestic tourism market:
- Review your pricing, and provide options at different price points. Research suggests that domestic travellers spend less than those travelling internationally. But their proximity means they may be better placed to make multiple trips if they have a good experience.
- For accommodation providers, highlight off-the-beaten track local attractions. Many travellers are looking to steer clear of highly-touristed marquee local attractions where there may be a risk of crowds. This may be the opportunity to raise the profile of lesser-known attraction within easy reach.
- Raise your profile on local online forums. If your business has been highly reliant on international visitors, you may not have felt the need to have an active presence on municipal or regional WhatsApp, Facebook or other forums mostly used by locals rather than visitors.
- Leverage existing assets. What people, events and activities are already connected to you? They can be strong foundations to build on.
- Revisit your approach to packaging. If you have developed packages – which might, for instance, allow customers to buy multiple elements of their vacation together at a discount – accommodation, vehicle hire, entry to local attractions – they may well have been put together with the international market in mind. Review these to ensure that they meet the needs of your local market.
- Adjust your marketing messaging to reflect the mood of travellers. Even if they are only contemplating a local vacation, research suggests that remaining safe from infection is at the top of the list of priorities for those looking to travel. Relaxation and relief from stress are higher up the list of priorities than they would usually be, as will access to open space and the outdoors. These themes will likely need to be prominent in your marketing.