Speeches and Presentations

Michele McKenzie President & CEO Canadian Tourism Commission Vancouver Board of Trade Feb 3, 2011

Michele McKenzie
President & CEO

Canadian Tourism Commission
Vancouver Board of Trade

Feb 3, 2011

Vancouver, B.C.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

And a special shout out to Tourism Vancouver and Tourism BC, two of our 2010 Tourism Consortium partners.

 GUNG HAY FAT CHOY as we begin the Year of the Rabbit!

  • The huge growth of global travel marks tourism as an astonishing, economic and social phenomenon, of the past century.
  • 25 million international arrivals worldwide in 1950.
  • 935 million international arrivals in 2010.
  • An estimated 1.6 billion international arrivals by the year 2020.  
  • Thank you for joining me today to talk about one of the most rapidly expanding sectors in the world—travel and tourism.
  • No surprise, then, that this has become a high-stakes game—one in which countries are competing to win. Winning countries are the ones offering exotic experiences, a strong tourism brand, great infrastructure, and effective collaboration between government and tourism partners.
  • The reward is greater revenues for those destinations that have it all together. 
  • About 80% of Canada’s tourism revenue is generated from the domestic market. This is important revenue for businesses across our country. But the market is ultimately limited, and “selling to ourselves” does not generate new wealth for our economy.
  • The CTC’s vision has to be far afield; to take Canada’s tourism brand into global markets—export markets—where we can connect with high-yield travellers who stay longer, and spend more.
  • We need to compete for more than our fair share of an ever-expanding pool of visitors. 
  • Travellers spent over one trillion dollars on tourism globally in 2009. 
  • That’s hard to imagine! Try three billion dollars a day.

Or—two million dollars every minute.

  • That’s why I’m here today, to talk about the high stakes, and what we’re doing to win.
  • Beginning in 2005, we set out to refresh Canada’s tourism brand, because simply having a positive image as a country does not translate into a compelling reason to visit. 
  • We wanted visitors to see Canada less as geography, and more as a destination; less about nature and more about exploration.
  • The world already knows us as a stable, safe country of sweeping landscapes. People want to live here.  They want to visit ‘sometime’.
  • Our challenge was to show the global marketplace that Canada also offers the exotic…the unique…and the unexpected.
  • We set about re-imagining Canada as place that offered extra-ordinary experiences to the curious traveller. 
  • Our challenge was to take our story about these exciting adventures to the world.
  • And, sometimes, you’re handed a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The 2010 Winter Games was it!
  • I have to start by saying how amazing the Games were. Congratulations to all of you who played a role.
  • The Games changed us, don’t you think? They changed how we see ourselves; how we feel about our country
  • And I think you’d agree that the Games changed how the world sees Canada.
  • My friend, Tewanee Joseph, former CEO of the Four Host First Nations, recently remarked that the Games were “the largest rebranding of Canadian indigenous peoples in Canadian history... a new time for Canada.”
  • I can tell you the Games certainly changed the CTC! 

First of all, we up and moved from Ottawa to Vancouver to become the first federal crown corporation to be headquartered here.

  • Right from the outset, we realized that the marketing opportunity for tourism was not about the event. There were other folks in place to worry about tickets sales and destination issues.
  • We knew that our job was to market Canada—to use the Olympic platform to advance Canada’s tourism brand.
  • In the hearts and minds of travellers around the world, we wanted to move Canada…from “a place I want to go before I die”—to “a place I want to go now—a place where I can enjoy memorable experiences.” 
  • We also knew that this would be the first truly digital Games—that viewers would access event content in more ways than ever before.
  • Using a media-focused Olympic strategy, Canada became the first country that sought to integrate great content about our tourism experiences, into the coverage of the Games by international broadcasters. 
  • Our goal was to get three billion viewers—glued to their screens—daydreaming about a vacation in Canada.
  • International broadcasters were open to new and innovative partnerships. It was 2008/2009.  Their revenues were down and their production budgets strained.
  • They were not in a position to shoot new material. And we didn’t want them to rely on outdated material from their archives. 
  • We provided fresh content with new shots of Canada’s tourism experiences—from coast to coast to coast. They loved it—and they asked for more.
  • A few years ago, we would never have released unedited video. We’re marketers, and that would have felt like giving up control.
  • But, in this case, we did our homework. We learned what the broadcasters wanted; and we learned how to provide it, in the format they could best use. 
  • Broadcasters packaged it up as they wished. As a result, the media told our story— and they told it better than we could have. It was a turning point in how we work with media.
  • These same broadcasters came to know us well. Now, when they are looking for new content to cover other major happenings in Canada, they know we can help them.
  • Let’s take an example of what I mean by integrating content into broadcast coverage. The Torch Relay. We wanted to find a way to make the story of the relay relevant in our target markets around the world.
  • Because—as interesting as we Canadians thought the relay to be—for international media or potential customers sitting in Germany or Australia, it was just a story about a bunch of Canadians, running around Canada.
  • We asked for fifteen spots on the Torch Relay, for athletes and celebrities, from the international markets where the CTC invests.
  • VANOC thought it was risky after the global protests around the Beijing Games torch relay. Their plan was to keep the event entirely Canadian. But we convinced them that this was a once-in-a-generation marketing opportunity.
  • Here are a few examples of this program’s success:
  • We invited Akshay Kumar—Bollywood’s Brad Pitt—to carry the torch in Toronto. Of course, the Indian media followed him here. Akshay gushed about Canada’s sophisticated cities—and about how much he loves coming here to shoot his films.
  • Media coverage back in India reached an audience of 70 million, amplified with stunning shots of Canada—including Whistler and Vancouver—provided by CTC and our partners.
  • Later, we leveraged Akshay’s celebrity status by making him our  tourism ambassador for India, to promote the travel experiences Indians can enjoy here.
  • Sportscaster Mary Carillo carried the torch on a thrilling dogsled ride in Iqaluit. This was broadcast on NBC, with her message that you, too, could enjoy this unique experience in Canada. 
  • And while she was North, we invited her Polar Bear watching—with her camera crew, of course. When NBC played her polar bear segment during their Olympic Broadcast, there was so much interest that the websites of adventure operators crashed!
  • These examples demonstrate how our media-focused approach served us well in getting our content out in the run-up to the Games—and through the Games as well.
  • In the end, we surpassed our own targets to influence global media exposure, and to generate awareness of Canada as a “must-see-now” vacation destination.  
  • For the first three months of 2010, our target was an audience reachof 2.4 billion.
  • To be clear—we were calculating the number of times individuals were exposed to 2010 Winter Games media material—broadcast and print stories that had been directly influenced by CTC and our partners.
  •  By March 31st, we had reached close to 9 billion

The total ad equivalency value of this exposure was over $1 billion dollars

  • So what happens when the Games are over?
  • As marketers, the day the Games ended, was the day our hard work began. It’s easy to get the world’s attention when you’re hosting the Olympics.
  • What’s hard—is to sustain that momentum after the Games end. We shifted to a tactical mode, where converting that interest, and closing the sale, became our focus.
  • We want to ensure that increased tourism is the long-term result of this new awareness; we want to transform travel dreams into bookings.
  • One powerful legacy of the Games is that the world now sees our country differently. In November, FutureBrand ranked Canada the Number One country brand in the world, bumping the US from top spot.
  • As CTC, we measure success—not by how many people travel to Canada from abroad—but by whether or not our marketing actions directly influenced their travel decision.
  • Initial results indicate that our post-Games, marketing campaigns increased visitor arrivals from our core markets.
  •  Here are a couple of highlights:
    • In 2010, 290,000 British travellers were inspired by Canada’s marketing campaigns to book flights here—almost twice the 2009 numbers and three times more than in 2008.
    • And, over 70,000 Australians shifted from considering a trip to Canada, to making a firm booking in 2010—that’s twice the 2009 numbers.
  • These are early results. We want to sustain this momentum…to see bigger and better results for 2011 and beyond.
  • Next week, we’ll release an interim report on its tourism strategy to leverage the Games, with more detailed results.
  • Let’s turn to another great opportunity, Approved Destination Status with China.
  • Because, as I’m sure you know, the success of the Winter Games wasn’t the only “game changer” for Canada in 2010.
  • Last June, China officially granted Approved Destination Status to Canada. Officially, this meant we could now receive group tours from China. But what was of most interest to the CTC was that the designation allowed us—for the first time—to market Canada in China.
  • It meant we could finally compete on an equal footing with other countries, for our share of the world’s largest outbound tourism market.
  • China says it will deliver 100 million international travellers by 2020.
  • This growth has the potential to generate an additional $300 million dollars a year in tourism revenues for Canada, by 2015. 
  • In two weeks, the CTC will launch a brand-awareness campaign to position Canada as a destination of choice, for high-spending Chinese travellers.
  • With tour operators in China, and suppliers in Canada, we’ll showcase high-quality, vacation experiences.
  • To start, we’ll focus on promoting well-known tourism draws like Whistler, Victoria and Vancouver.  Later, once Chinese travellers feel a certain comfort level, we’ll introduce them to experiences a little more off the beaten track.
  • In this new market, as elsewhere, Canada is a leading destination for meetings, conventions, and incentive travel. This is a very important opportunity here in Vancouver with the new, state-of-the art Vancouver Convention Centre.
  • This time next year, we expect significant growth from the China market linked to additional air capacity, our advertising and promotional campaigns, and partner support. 
  • In spite of these great opportunities, there remain a few challenges—some areas that require further attention.
  • As you know, we can be the best marketers in the world, and inspire millions of potential travellers to choose Canada. But if they can’t get an airline seat or easily apply for a visa—then our efforts are largely in vain.
  • Building awareness of Canada as a tourism destination makes sense when there’s an efficient visa process, and adequate air capacity, to meet the increasing demand that’s created.
  • Visas are a growing area of interest for all of us in the tourism industry, as they are required from emerging markets like India, Brazil and China. 
  • More and more, countries are viewing the visa process through a competitive lens.
  • Feedback from the travel trade tells CTC, that Canada’s visa process is more onerous, than that of some of our key competitors.
  • Let’s look at Brazil.
  • Brazilians who want to visit the US have to make an appointment with the US embassy. This means they may have to wait.
  • But, unlike the Canadian process, they are not required to surrender their passport, and they can expect to receive a visa the day of their appointment.
  • In addition, US visas are often issued for a ten-year period and are transferrable to a new passport. That’s a great strategy.
  • From January to October 2010, close to a million Brazilians travelled to the US.  Only 68,000 travelled to Canada.
  • So, while arrivals to Canada were up almost 30%, Brazil’s potential as a tourism source market for Canada remains limited, due—at least in part—to this impediment.
  • What’s more, the new U.S. Corporation for Travel Promotion—their version of the CTC—views the broad visa issue as a priority, and is working on a visa waiver for Brazil.
  • What effect could this have? Well, the US implemented a visa waiver for South Korean travellers in late 2008. In 2010, arrivals from Korea to Canada were up 24%—great results.  But—Korean arrivals in the US were up 52%—double Canada’s performance.
  • Australia has recently gone to an online model to make their visa process more competitive.
  • Another concern we hear about, in all our markets, is air access.
  • Of the 11 countries around the world in which CTC conducts marketing campaigns, Canada has Open Skies Agreements with two—the US and South Korea—and liberalized air agreements with four others: the UK, France, Germany and Japan. 
  • Compare this with the 96 Open Skies Agreements the US has negotiated. It’s easy to see that there’s room to improve.
  • Going back to my Brazil example:
  • Brazilians are a high-spend consumer group, eager to travel and fond of skiing.  Yet there is only one non-stop daily route between Brazil and Canada—and that’s into Toronto.
  • With no non-stop flights to western Canada, travellers often choose ski resorts in Aspen or Vale over Whistler or Banff. 
  • But, achieving a policy environment that allows for more flights is only half the picture. The role of marketing is to build demand—to help ensure that as new flights come on, there is strong demand for the seats.
  • Right now—for the first time in many years—we have increased air capacity between Canada and Japan—close to 400,000 seats this year. If we want to capitalize on this opportunity, we need to work together to fill those seats.

Let me wrap up.

  • In the afterglow of the Olympic Games, the CTC has upped our game to build on increased awareness of Canada as a destination.  We are competing to win.
  • Great partnerships, bold strategies, calculated risks, and innovative marketing, have created a tourism legacy for the future, on the platform of the Games.
  • We have a lot going for us.
  • When economies recover, travel demand rebounds.
  • There is increased awareness among governments about the impact of policy decisions on tourism.
  • There is increased capacity on the advocacy front—helping to identify innovative solutions to the challenges I mentioned earlier.
  • We’re prudently optimistic about the industry’s outlook and prospects in 2011. The figures coming in from our key markets seem to bear this out.
  • That’s great news for Canada. We are better positioned now, than ever before, to compete for an increased share of the growing market of international travelers.
  • Our awareness has never been higher. Our tourism brand has evolved into a force to be reckoned with.

Most important of all, our industry provides tourism experiences the world craves. Our message resonates. Together, we are competing to win.