Canada has been enjoying a strong sales year. Although we are still awaiting statistics for the summer months from the tourist board, UK tour operators are reporting increased sales year-on-year and a trend towards early bookings.
Whether it’s the publicity surrounding the country’s 150th anniversary celebrations, a perception of safety, perceived liberalism alongside Trump’s US or the proliferation of low-cost airlines offering keenly priced fares, Brits are honing in on Canada’s appeal.
Ross Sinclair, senior product manager, USA, Caribbean and Canada at Travel 2, says: “Canada has been selling extremely well for Travel 2; we’re currently up 26% overall for the current financial year.” It’s a similar story at Premier Holidays. Canada product executive Tim Greathead comments: “Travel for 2017 is up year-on-year, and Canada has been selling out a lot quicker for 2017 than in previous years, especially in the key months from June to September. The destination has taken some of the market share of America and is really reaping the benefits, seeing a good demand.”
Back in March, Claire Moore, Canada specialist and co-owner of TTG Top 50 Travel Agencies store Peakes Travel Elite in Shrewsbury, told TTG that in 2016 the agency had enjoyed a record sales year for Canada. Seven months on and she affirms 2017 is on track to be bigger still.
“We held a Canadian promotion on September 16 with one part open to clients keen to know more about Canada; we had double the number of attendees than we did last time. Typically your Canada client is the empty-nester, but we’re seeing more of a mix now – young couples, families and adventurous types.”
Moore adds that their average booking value for 2017 has increased by £1,500 compared with last year and that availability is an important consideration for 2018.
“Brochures are out now so we’d encourage clients to book as soon as possible. We usually hold a Canada event in January to take bookings but the overspill from the previous year is growing and we’ll have to see if that’s possible next year. I’d say after the January-February peaks you’ll struggle [for popular product in peak months].”
So Canada has the potential to offer agents an excellent earning opportunity but as sales peak, availability can become an issue, particularly during the high-season months of June to September and particularly in Western Canada, which many tourists choose for a first-time visit.
It is worth noting Air Canada is increasing its service from Heathrow to Vancouver with an additional non-stop daily flight for summer 2018, so the competition for accommodation could be fiercer still.
Travel 2’s Sinclair points out: “Availability has been a slight issue across Western Canada due to its popularity; we have seen a trend towards more advanced bookings for the 2018 season, especially for the more specialist experiences such as Knight Inlet Lodge bear viewing, which are filling up already.
“People who may have been holding out for late special offers that didn’t materialise due to very limited availability or who missed out in previous years have been quick off the mark for 2018.”
Premier Holidays’ Greathead adds: “Premier has also seen a surge in bookings for 2018 to Canada and is already up year-on-year. As a result, we have brought forward our 2018 Canada brochure to meet demand.
“As availability is limited, our message is encouraging people to book earlier than ever, particularly in the key areas of the Rockies – Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and Vancouver.”
If your clients are among those that have been lured in by Canada’s growing appeal, how can you ensure you are able to deliver their dream holiday if they haven’t acted quickly?
There are of course other options beyond the popular Rocky Mountain itineraries, as Amanda Newby de Saulles, UK business development director for Travel Alberta, points out. “Summer bookings have continued to be strong for Alberta in 2017. It’s great to see the growing number of Alberta programmes that showcase regions beyond the Canadian Rockies. Travellers are exploring further afield and spending longer in areas such as Calgary, Edmonton and Southern Alberta, including the Badlands.
“Agents with clients keen to explore Alberta during summer should consider selling a more diverse range of destinations outside of the mountain resorts, which offer many classic activities such as horse riding, hiking and bike riding.”
Cox & Kings’ Canada product manager, Owen Walker, has a similar suggestion for British Columbia, suggesting a Vancouver Island British Columbia coastal drive as an alternative to the Rocky Mountains.
Travel 2’s Sinclair points out agents need to think broadly about their Canada sales. “Another factor for us regarding popularity and also availability was the rise in demand for North America Cruise Plus products, with Vancouver one of the most popular departure ports worldwide for Alaskan cruises.” While you may not struggle to find your customers a cruise, popular land-based products such as the Rocky Mountaineer train can sell quickly so make sure you are looking at all elements of the package.
Cox & Kings’ Walker also offers some more general tips for ensuring happy customers.
“Encourage them to be flexible with the order of the itinerary – things can often be rejigged to accommodate. Encourage travel during shoulder periods when availability can be better, and there are better prices for the tours. And if their preferred destination does sell out, suggest visiting a different part of Canada this year, then tell them to pre-book for the following year.”
Of course this last point isn’t always so easily done, and the key here is ensuring you have plenty of selling points up your sleeve – see below for suggestions.
Nova Scotia in Canada’s south-east saw an 8% year-on-year increase in overall visitors for the first half of 2017 and a 60% increase in UK visitors in June this year. Cox & Kings’ Walker recommends Canada’s eastern regions. “Eastern Canada tends to have better availability compared with the more popular west and provides better value for money. There is still lots of stunning scenery,” he says. Walker also points out good switch-selling tips. “There’s amazing food – you get can year-round lobster at a fraction of the cost of here in the UK. It’s less busy – the roads are quieter and there are smaller hotels and scenic drives. Flight times are shorter – Vancouver is more than nine hours from London, yet Halifax and St Johns can be reached in six. Plus it is great for whale watching.”
Book it: Cox & Kings’ 14-day Atlantic Canada Explorer starts from £1,295pp.
Premier Holidays’ Greathead says: “Newfoundland offers stunning scenery and great experiences, just like the Rockies. There’s everything from the fjords and wildlife of Gros Morne national park – very similar to the Rockies in my experience – and whale watching trips from many points of the island, to an abundance of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking and rafting.”
Book it: Premier Holidays’ 19-night Tides and Parks of Atlantic Canada self-drive, from £2,899pp, is a new addition to its 2018 Canada brochure and covers Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Tourist board QuebecOriginal has taken a new approach to marketing the province’s top selling points. Andre Martel, UK and Europe market manager, recently revealed 14 Signature Experiences. “We realised people don’t know where the different parts of Quebec are necessarily,” he says. “Instead we wanted to highlight the experiences they can enjoy here.” These include the Great Outdoors and Vibrant Cities. Both of which are often key selling points for the popular western regions of Canada. Martel highlights the Mauricie region, between Montreal and Quebec City (left), which offers a national park and lakes. Guests can stay in luxury lakeside lodges such as Sacacomie with the opportunity to explore nature, discover wildlife and take part in activities.
Book it: Prestige Holidays has a two-centre Quebec break from £2,040pp including Heathrow flights, three-nights’ room-only in Montreal, four nights at Sacacomie Lodge in Saint Alexis des Monts, and transfers.