Canadian Campaign Exhorts U.S. Tourists To Personalize Visit

by , May 29, 2007, 5:00 AM
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Canada, which, while still one of the top destinations outside the United States for Americans, is aiming to boost the numbers of U.S. tourists going north. As the U.S. has tightened security along the border, the number of tourists visiting the land of mountains, Mounties and midnight sun has dwindled.

The new effort, via DDB Toronto for the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), focuses on Canada as a place offering such a plethora of cultures, topography, and urban and wilderness activities that one can personalize one's exploration there. The campaign, in fact, uses the tagline "Keep Exploring."

The effort suggests that in Canada one can swim with Beluga whales in Manitoba; take a spa treatment via helicopter ride to a five-star outpost; indulge in epicurean delights in Vancouver or Quebec, or canoe the Yukon River with Inuits, touting our northern neighbor as a "hands-on experience."

Ads began running recently in magazines, newspapers, commuter rail stations and fitness centers in so-called feeder markets like Boston, New York and Los Angeles.

Greg Klassen, vice president/marketing for the Vancouver-based CTC, says that although the campaign launched this year, the tagline is a little over a year old. "We have been marketing in the U.S. for 75 years, mostly focusing on southern Canada as a tourist destination," he says.

Klassen adds that although worldwide, the tourism industry is one of the fastest-growing, Canada's share is getting smaller. "Our share has been declining over the last couple of years, and that's a concern."

U.S. citizens produce the largest share by far of Canada's tourism revenue. "This is the world's largest undefended border, and there are a lot of people who used to come to Canada for lunch, and that access is no longer as easy as it used to be," says Klassen.

He says U.S. citizens constitute 58% of Canada's tourism revenue and 70% of the total number of visits to the country; the U.K. is number two, and Japan, though its numbers are declining, is also a source of tourism dollars.

Klassen says another issue is the sheer volume of tourism marketing messages aimed at Americans. "U.S. citizens are prolific travelers, and they are choosing other destinations instead of coming here. And on the flip side, more and more Americans are hunkering down and staying home. So you have adventure travelers at one end and people traveling only domestically on the other."

He says the campaign highlights what he calls a perception among U.S. citizens that Canada is naturally prolific, with a vast wilderness.

"They are saying Canada is like the U.S. used to be 25 years ago--unspoiled--so they like the idea of coming to a place that has natural environment but also with sophisticated cities. What we need to do is give them ideas behind a plethora of things to see and do. In the past, we have under-promised and over-delivered."

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