Canada Fertile Ground for Alberta Tourism
Canadian Markets Vital to Alberta Tourism Success
Given that Canadian travellers, including those from Alberta, account for 95 per cent of Alberta's total visitation and almost 77 per cent of total expenditures, it goes without saying Canada is an important market for Alberta tourism operators.
And with Canada's soft dollar keeping travellers closer to home, this is a particularly opportune time for Canadian travellers to discover or rediscover Alberta.
“Alberta tourism businesses now have a greater incentive to reach beyond our own provincial borders for new business,” says Karen Ward, Travel Alberta’s Director of Consumer Marketing for North America. The greatest potential can be found in the "near markets" of Saskatchewan and the British Columbia interior.
Travellers from Saskatchewan and B.C. know a lot about Alberta, it's an easy drive to get here, and no sales tax is a huge draw for back-to-school and Christmas shopping.
"With the current economic challenges in Alberta, it makes sense to look at expanding your marketing efforts into new markets to attract customers," says Ward. "These 'near' markets offer great value and potential."
Canadian Market is Diverse
While Canadian travellers tend to know more about Alberta than international tourists, knowledge of our province varies across the country. As a result, marketing efforts are customized to each region.
"Those who are closer to us know more about us, they return often, stay in hotel rooms, ski, go to hockey games and come here to shop," says Ward. " These are high-potential travellers who may visit Alberta two, three or four times a year."
Travellers from Ontario or Quebec, on the other hand, may know our location and some of our iconic attractions, but they are not as well-versed in all Alberta has to offer. A different approach is needed.
Their travel decisions are also impacted by airfares and airline promotions. "The cost of air travel in Canada does present an added hurdle to attract long-haul visitors," says Ward. "Therefore, these customers are more difficult to attract and may only come once or have longer gaps between visits.”
Ward adds that long-haul markets are also expensive and highly competitive, and can be more difficult for individual tourism operators to navigate. “This is where Travel Alberta brings value with our ‘always-on’ Canada marketing strategy and seasonal pushes."
It's All About Digital
As Canadian travellers increasingly go online to research and book vacations, Travel Alberta has directed the force of its marketing efforts to the digital world.
The redesign of travelalberta.com in April 2016 has been well-received, says Ward, and online strategies are in place to entice travellers specifically searching for Alberta as well as capturing new travellers who may be looking for the type of products and services Alberta has to offer.
Travel Alberta is also driving its social media strategy as research shows more and more travellers are going to platforms like Facebook and Instagram for vacation inspiration.
When the mobile GPS game Pokémon Go was made available in Canada in July, for example, Travel Alberta introduced the Pokémaster's Guide to Alberta to help fans of the wildly popular game explore attractions in every region of Alberta. The free Tumblr page encourages players to travel around the province to find unique Pokémon in places like Drumheller’s Badlands, Elk Island National Park, Jasper and Crowsnest Pass.
"This was a great example of how to take something current and relevant and layer in a tourism message," says Ward. "It all came together in about a week and got tremendous attention from social and traditional media."
Many Ways to Tell Our Story
Travel Alberta continually works with journalists and social media influencers across the country providing compelling stories to showcase our province to the rest of Canada.
"Canadian media are more familiar with Alberta and our job is to send a steady stream of story ideas, keeping them informed of what's new,"says Susan Darch, Travel Alberta's Director of Global Media and Content.
Alberta also got a big public awareness bump with Canadians when the Amazing Race Canada television series visited Jasper and Calgary for two episodes that aired on CTV in June and July.
Travel Alberta regularly shares stories about Alberta experiences with Canadian media via the media newsroom.
Momentum is Building
While hard numbers for visitation to Alberta this summer are not yet available, the latest Alberta Tourism Market Monitor from the Alberta Government (posted on Travel Alberta’s industry website), suggests the declining loonie and economic slowdown have had a positive impact on Canadian travellers' future plans to visit Alberta.
In its survey of 1,915 Canadian travellers, roughly one-in-seven said they plan to visit Banff/Lake Louise (14 per cent) or Edmonton (13 per cent) in the next six months.
Banff/Lake Louise was also viewed as the most appealing Canadian destination, followed by Vancouver and Victoria.
"There's no question it's a challenging time for some Alberta tourism businesses as our own economy slows," says Ward. "And while the Rockies and resort areas are thriving, the rest of the province would do well to explore the great marketing opportunities offered just beyond our borders."