“[Canada’s] tourism [industry] has a great story, one that we should all be telling,” said David Robinson, Destination Canada’s senior vice president of public affairs and corporate secretary.
During the recent Canadian Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo (COHCE), officials from Destination Canada and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada celebrated Canada’s tourism industry and shared what the industry looks like this year and beyond.
The value of tourism
David Robinson of Destination Canada highlighted the tourism industry’s importance to the country’s economy.
Robinson cited government data indicating that Canada’s tourism industry is an essential contributor to the country’s economy, responsible for 1 in 10 jobs and generating CA$105.1 billion in revenue in 2019.
“The hosting economy is bigger than most people think. Tourism contributed CA$45.2 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2019, and compared to prominent sectors of the Canadian economy, tourism was estimated to be the second highest contributor total GDP in 2019, only behind oil and gas and ahead of agriculture, forestry, fishing, and telecommunications,” Robinson added.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the industry, causing a decrease in tourism activities and creating significant challenges for operators. But Robinson said the good news is that recovery is underway, and the future of the industry looks promising.
Robinson discussed the country’s tourism industry’s present and future state. He also anticipated a return to 2019 levels, which was the best year for Canadian tourism, but he recognized that it would be a challenge to get there.
He also mentioned the increasing demand for outdoor and wilderness experiences. For many travelers, the freedom of wild and wide open spaces has been the perfect antidote to confinement, driving visitation to national parks and other nature-based destinations. Even in traditional off-seasons, activities are increasingly in demand due to reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of belongingness.
“The natural world’s ability to enhance wellness and provoke awe in visitors reduces anxiety and stimulates a sense of belonging to a grander story,” Robinson said.
To rebuild the tourism industry, Robinson outlined Destination Canada’s four key drivers for strategy: brand resonance, legendary experience, industry vitality, and support from Canadians.
The global brand strategy and Canada’s openness are also part of the strategy. He then shifted the conversation to the 10-year plan to build greater sector resilience, improve competitiveness, enhance local life, and go beyond the baseline of sustainable tourism.
As per Robinson, Destination Canada vows to continue striving for tourism growth that generates wealth and well-being for Canadians while enriching the lives of guests, increasing business prosperity, strengthening sociocultural vibrancy, and lifting environmental sustainability.
Marc Seguin, vice president of policy and government affairs at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, talked about the challenges that the industry faces in the present day.
Seguin mentioned that no tourism sector was spared by the pandemic, and some operators are still facing debts along with many other challenges.
“73% of the businesses that we surveyed this summer were carrying a debt load that’s generally considered to be problematic or unhealthy,” Seguin added.
He also spoke about the challenges of inflation and interest rates and the difficulties of rebuilding the industry. Seguin acknowledged the government’s accomplishments in providing new support for Indigenous tourism, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“[Tourism] businesses continue to struggle financially, are carrying significant debt loads, face barriers to attracting investment, and are having difficulty attracting and retaining a necessary workforce to successfully carry out their operations,” Seguin said.
For private campground owners and operators, the future of Canada’s tourism industry looks promising. The tourism sector’s 10-year plan, if adopted and implemented effectively, will create a more resilient and sustainable tourism sector.
According to the VP, as the tourism sector tries to recover and bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, there’s a unique opportunity to rebuild a travel and tourism sector that is more resilient, sustainable, equitable, and inclusive.
With innovation and resilience, private campground owners or operators can overcome this challenge and capitalize on the opportunities that the Canadian tourism industry presents.
The 2023 Canadian Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo, organized by the Canadian Camping and RV Council (CCRV), was held virtually on February 15 and 16. The event allowed members of the industry to come together online to participate in a wide array of educational sessions led by leaders in the outdoor hospitality industry.