Winter U.K. Push Gears Up
The allure of Alberta’s breath-taking scenery, wildlife viewing, outdoor adventures and urban experiences is continuing to drive tourism from the United Kingdom with new statistics from Destination Canada showing an 8.2 per cent increase in visitation since last year.
The recent addition of more direct flights to Alberta and a strong British pound has helped fuel the trend.
Travel Alberta and its partners are capitalizing on this opportunity with a just-launched winter marketing campaign to raise awareness in the U.K. of Alberta as a must-visit winter holiday and ski destination.
“There’s great momentum happening right now with the U.K. market,” says Mito Ota, Travel Alberta’s Director, Consumer Marketing International. “We are working with our teams based in the U.K. and are activating all our marketing channels.”
A Key Market for Alberta
The United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – is Alberta’s largest overseas market, second only to the United States in visitation.
More than 170,000 travellers from the U.K. visited Alberta in 2014, spending about $228 million, according to Statistics Canada.
A new Tourism Snapshot report from Destination Canada reported 310,075 arrivals from the U.K. in the year ending in June, 2016, an increase of 8.2 per cent from 2015.
The report noted no discernable impacts on travel from the U.K. in the wake of that nation’s decision to leave the European Union. “It’s too early to assess the impact of Brexit,” says Ota. “But our team is keeping a close eye on it.”
U.K visitors to Alberta tend to be comfortable travelling on their own, renting cars and RVs. They like that our airports provide easy access to our mountains and natural attractions, as well as to urban adventures, local culture and cuisine.
Visitors tend to stay longer, approximately 10.6 nights, and book well in advance, typically three to five months ahead of their trip.
Increased Air Capacity a Bonus
U.K. travellers are well served by direct air access to Alberta, and in May, 2016, that got even better with the addition of new WestJet flights from London’s Gatwick airport.
WestJet now offers direct flights from Gatwick to Calgary five times a week year-round and twice weekly to Edmonton from May to October.
Air Canada and British Airways operate daily scheduled service from London to Alberta year-round and Air Transat operates a seasonal charter service.
In 2016, there were more than 260,000 seats from the U.K. to Alberta, an increase of 6.4 per cent from the year before.
“Having this level of air service is very important to our strategy to drive incremental revenue,” says Ota. “We’ll continue to work with our airline and airport partners to ensure the seats are filled.”
Push for Winter Travel
Skiing is popular in the United Kingdom and enthusiasts there have the added bonus on being a short flight away from resorts in Europe.
But Alberta’s ski destinations have the advantage of a longer ski season – November to May – as well as the best conditions in the world just a short hop from international airports.
In addition to world-class cuisine in our mountain towns of Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and Canmore, Alberta also boasts a wide array of unique, non-ski winter activities like dog sledding, heli snowshoeing and canyon ice walks.
According to a recent survey conducted by Google, one in 10 Brits are planning one or more ski holidays in the next 12 months.
That’s why Travel Alberta has just launched a new marketing campaign in the U.K. to raise awareness of Alberta as a must-visit ski and winter destination.
“We’re working in collaboration with our cities, surrounding areas and mountain resorts to create captivating stories about the unique winter experiences Alberta has to offer,” says Susan Darch, Travel Alberta’s Director, Global Media & Content.
“We’re lining up media influencers to visit Alberta and supporting Alberta ambassadors in telling our story to the U.K. customer.”
Travel Alberta’s winter U.K. campaign will target digitally connected travellers through an online strategy that includes social media engagement and online advertising, as well as promoting U.K. tour operator packages on travelalberta.com/uk to move our customers down the path to purchase.
All Channels Are Activated
Travel Alberta’s Business Development teams are also reaching out to leverage U.K. interest in Alberta, working closely with tour operators selling both ski and non-ski winter touring packages to our province.
The team is also working to build close ties with the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and events) market to continue to grow this market segment in the U.K. by identifying and developing relationships with event producers and association executives that align with Alberta industries.
On Nov. 7-9, 2016, Travel Alberta will engage U.K. tour operators at the World Travel Market (WTM) 2016 held in London. Billed as the world’s leading global event for the travel industry, WTM London attracts tour operators from across the U.K. and Europe.
Team Alberta will be there as part of the Destination Canada contingent to promote Alberta’s wide variety of experiences throughout the province and build relationships with tour operators.
WTM provides a platform to continue to drive the Alberta winter message to the tour operators, as well as highlighting new opportunities for tour operators in areas of Alberta that are lesser known in the U.K.
Visit the market insights for the U.K. on the Travel Alberta industry website.