Rendez-vous Canada 2016, the international tourism marketplace of Destination Canada organised in Montreal recently, showcased the non-traditional aspects of Canada’s tourism highlights, inviting travellers from across the world to discover the unexplored attractions of the country By Sudipta Dev
The 40th edition of Rendez-vous Canada was organised at the iconic Montreal Convention Centre recently. The four-day annual marketplace of Destination Canada was the biggest in its history with over 1,680 delegates, and as many as 536 buyers from 28 countries. It also included a significant number of buyers from India. RVC 2016 saw more than 26,000 face-to-face meetings between Canadian suppliers and buyers from across the world, including those from non-Destination Canada markets.
During her keynote address at RVC 2016, Bardish Chagger, minister of Small Business and Tourism, Canada launched the Millennial Travel Programme and said, “It is really important that millennials travel, not only to see the world, but to come to Canada. You can discover the entire world in our country.”
The highlight of the first day at RVC 2016 was the Destination Canada Inside Track. Addressing the delegates, David Goldstein, president and CEO, Destination Canada, spoke about the need to change the old perceptions of Canada. “Canada is not cold, it is cool,” he asserted. Talking about the destination of the 40th convention, which was co-hosted by the tourism departments of Quebec and Montreal, Goldstein said, “Montreal is the most magnificent city and is a destination that keeps reinventing itself.”
In an exclusive interaction with Express TravelWorld, Goldstein mentioned that growth (of 8.6 per cent) from the India market last year was close to the expectations. “We are looking for the same or slightly more growth from the India market in 2016 and 2017. Now we have direct flights and connections with other flights are also better. Even the visa situation has eased, along with a host of other factors – from Canada’s cultural diversity, much more welcoming society to long history with India. There is a lot of bilateral travel between the two countries. We think the prospects for middle class and upper middle class is very strong who have an appetite for long haul travel,” he mentioned.
Reminding that even in friends and family visitations, extra days and extra weeks are tagged on, he added, “We see continued strength from the market.” For Indians, the popular destinations are Vancouver and Toronto. However, Goldstein pointed out that the Indo-Canadian community has become dispersed across Canada, for instance Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal, “We think that Indians who are sophisticated travellers, for their second or third experience, there is huge opportunity in different destinations, though there is far greater comfort in English speaking Canada.”
There has been significant growth in FIT business from India, remarked Goldstein, adding that even though there is significant reliance on the travel trade. Another positive development has been an increasing interest among Canadians to travel to India. “It’s always productive when overall bilateral travel increases – it leads to familiarity; people tell stories,” he opined.
Destination Canada’s new focus is on non-traditional Canadian highlights which, according to Goldstein, is the new exciting way to showcase Canada. “Sporting events are very popular, so are cultural festivals. There are parts of Canada travellers are looking beyond. For instance not just Vancouver, but the wine country in the interiors of British Columbia. Getting out of Toronto and not just looking at Niagra, but going up along Lake Ontario towards Kingston or Ottawa,” he elaborated, adding that there are lots of opportunities to build those itineraries and Destination Canada has been working with the Indian travel trade to refresh the itineraries that they are building for their clients. For India the biggest focus is on leisure travel, while for MICE the key markets are the US, UK, Belgium and France.
“The quarter of our marketing budget goes into APAC, and in the Asia Pacific it is only Japan, China, India and Australia and South Korea. India is very prominent in that,” informed Goldstein. He is hopeful that with the government’s new investment, Destination Canada will be able to look at augmenting its current campaigns in most markets, including India. “We are interested in figuring out how to get Indian travellers past the normal destinations that they see in Canada,” he asserted, adding that he wanted them to get past the grandfather’s Canada and explore what the new Canada looks like. “There is a wonderful diversity of places and communities across the country and there are tons of opportunities,” he affirmed.
In 2015, the growth in Indian visitor arrivals to British Columbia was 8.4 per cent. Monica Leeck, market development manager Asia, Destination British Columbia, said, “What continuous to be popular in the India market is the Rocky Mountaineer, Via Rail and Alaska cruise, so we are seeing a lot of continued interest in us. One significant aspect is promoting the shoulder season, that is October to April. One of the ideas is of course the Northern Lights, we combine that with Vancouver as well and that makes a nice package.” Spring time is ideal for Alaska cruise as prices are a bit lower and so is the airfare. The other shoulder season theme is during autumn. Reminding that from harvesting at vineyards to spawning of salmon, there are many interesting activities for visitors to enjoy, Leeck shared that another option is Christmas theme, for instance at Butchart Garden in Victoria. From India MICE and self drive holidays have been growing in recent times to British Columbia.
Last year Ontario hosted over 100,000 Indian travellers, and a year before that 94,000. Harvey Hamazaki, trade consultant, Asia, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation, pointed out that this number was before the new direct flight, so they expect another increase for 2016. “We know that the flight is full and Air Canada is very happy with the numbers. There is a double digit increase. Indian people like Canada in general, they like the weather and nature. We expect steady growth from the market. People always came to Toronto from India as they have friends and relatives and the latter take them to different places. But now we see the focus on peer travel.” MICE from India is a big market for Ontario Tourism, particularly since Toronto hosted around 5,000-6,000 Amway delegates about three years ago. “That was the largest international MICE group ever to Toronto. We showed the world we can handle big groups,” he informed.
Canada being traditionally a leisure destination for Indians, it was interesting to see a few MICE specialists among the travel trade from India. Kuldeep Sharma, group GM – MICE and Incentive, Naveen Tours, New Delhi, informed that his company is planning to bring a few groups this year. “It is the first time my company is participating in RVC. This platform is important to us as we are trying to explore the right destination and products for our corporate customers.” For Anil Kalsi, managing director, Ambe World Travel, New Delhi, the very first RVC was a great learning experience. “I have increased my knowledge which will help me for future business. It will open new vistas, specially for those going to the USA and Canada on long-term visa. It has given me good insight into things and I am sure it will help us generate more business to Canada.” Avin Jain, chairman, Pleasure Tours, Agra and Delhi is also looking at combining Montreal and Quebec tours with the East Coast of the US. “This is one of the better organised travel trade events worldwide, in terms of business meetings as well as other aspects. The FAM tours were well organised. We met many small suppliers,” said Jain.
Pinky Rajput, associate VP – sales, Balmer Lawrie/ Vacations Exotica, Mumbai, found RVC 2016 an informative experience. “This is going to help us design and offer packages to our end customers which will be beneficial both ways. I am looking forward to a wonderful season,” she said. Havovi Tampal, tour counsellor with Canada specialist Shree Yash Destinations, Mumbai, has attended RVC before and considers the event an effective platform to meet Canadian suppliers personally and gather more information about the products that her company is selling.
One of the highlights of RVC this year was an interesting talk on why those in travel business need to create their distinctive brand identity, by motivational speaker and author Justin Kingsley.