Billions and trillions are the best way to describe the travel and tourism sector. In 2013, for the first time in history, over a billion people travelled. They spent a trillion dollars. And in 2014, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) says 1.4 billion people will travel.
David Scowsill, the president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council, says, “The growth of our industry outstrips the growth of global GDP year after year. In fact, the WTTC forecasts that travel and tourism will grow by 4.4 percent per year – every year for the next 10 years – far higher than global GDP which will grow at 3.5 percent. By 2024 our industry will be generating over $11 trillion and will have created 75 million new jobs.”
Travel and tourism is like an iceberg. What most people see is only a seasonal tip of what’s happening in their community and around the world. It’s a vastly larger industry than the few months of summer – or winter if you’re a ski destination – that most locals assume.
Hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies, gift shops, tour companies, adventure suppliers, caterers, entertainers, and others couldn’t survive if they had to rely on a three-month season. This is something many in the public, as well as the political class, don’t understand.
To illustrate that lack of understanding by Canadian politicians we only have to look at their support for tourism marketing. Three years ago the Federal government supported the Canadian Tourism Commission’s (CTC) work with a $98 million budget. This year that is down to $58 million. Meanwhile the competition is upping their investments. New York State has a $60 million budget. Cash-strapped Haiti upped its spend by $4 million. Madagascar has allocated $500 million. Honduras identified tourism as a national priority.
While Canada is dropping in our international standing because of our reduced profile, others aren’t. We have dropped from 4th to 17th place on the list of places to go. Australia tourism up 6 percent last year. Ireland expects a 7.3 percent increase in 2014.
In the US travel is now the second largest growth sector after agriculture. Travel dramatically outpaced the rest of the economy for the year, growing more than three percent compared to 1.9 percent for all sectors.
In the meetings sector, Las Vegas saw a 21 percent growth in March 2014 conference attendees in year-over-year comparisons. And since Canada is their number one foreign market they increased their Toronto sales office from one to four sales reps. That was in June 2014.
Also in June, Brand USA opened a Toronto office. This is a major shift. Alfredo Gonzalez, Senior VP, Global Market Development, The Brand USA, says they realize they have to pay attention to Canada as a separate identifiable market and that it’s no longer good enough to think of servicing Canada from a desk in New York, Chicago or Washington. Not doing so he says, “Is like saying, you’re not a country. Well, that’s a) unfair, b) impolite, and c) just completely stupid.”
“So we’ll always address Canada as a country, with its own identity and not as a northern state. It’s a country and needs to be addressed as such. And we needed to have boots on the ground because the market behaves 7 days a week, 12 months a year; it’s not something we can send a rep to Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and say, ‘okay we’ve done our business we’re outta here’.”
Gonzalez says Brand USA’s 11 worldwide offices “are not just meeting with the regular tour operators for trade and trade development, they’re actually meeting with planners and with groups and other groups that mean business into the U.S.”
It’s smart thinking on their part and should be worrisome for those dealing in the meetings sector because they may be taking Canadian business south and/or keeping some American and international business from coming north. And that is only one example of the increased international competition for business.
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