THEY LIKE US, THEY REALLY LIKE US
Only the Aussies, god bless their beer-drinking souls, came out higher than Canada according to a study that's being released at a world travel market in London on Tuesday, Nov. 11.
A company called Future Brand has been putting out something it calls a Country Brand Index for several years. They apparently surveyed 2,700 folks to learn about their favourite/most respected places to travel for their latest poll, and it's got Canada in the number two spot in the world, behind Australia but ahead of the U.S. (Of course, this was before Barack Obama became president-elect), which came third.
It's not a ranking of where folks want to go. That part of the survey had Canada in eighth place, which is still good. Instead, it's a ranking of the country's overall brand.
Future Brand's index had Canada in sixth place a year ago and down at 12th in 2006, so a jump into the silver medal bracket sounds like something worth celebrating.
Canadian Tourism Commission officials say it's proof that the nation's recent marketing efforts are paying off.
“We’re thrilled,” said Greg Klassen, vice president of marketing for the CTC. “I don’t think it’s a fight for number one. It’s not like the Olympics and you’re looking for gold. But we definitely want to be in the top-five and make sure we don’t rest on our laurels.”
Klassen said the commission is focussing more on travel experiences for visitors.
“We say tongue in cheek that customers want off the bus,” he said. “They don’t just want to take a picture out of the window, they want to get off the bus and maybe hike that mountain or interact with locals, maybe have some local cuisine and not just eat in the tour-itinerary restaurants. We want them to know they can have that outdoor experience but also stay in a luxury lodge with a five-star meal and five-star wines.”
Klassen said Canada is barely holding steady on actual number of visitors to the country. But he said spending per customer went up 4.7 per cent from 2007 to 2008, and that the average visitor spends something like $127 per day.
“It’s not just volume want but a yield,” he said. “We want customers with more money to spend.”
The centrepiece of the latest Canada marketing campaign is a series of video clips shot by folks who actually visited Canada. One shows someone whistling over a river in British Columbia on a zipline, while another shows an iceberg collapsing off the coast of Newfoundland. (There is, apparently, no truth to the rumour that one of the adventure shots shows a person trying to get onto the Yonge Street subway at Eglinton station during rush hour.)
In addition to generally being seen as a good place to go, Canada also appears to be benefitting from hype over the coming Winter Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler in February, 2010, said Sharon Hayward of DDB Public Relations in Toronto, which represents the CTC.
The actual top-ten list won't be published until Tuesday, but officials said the Country Brand Index top 10 also includes Switzerland, France and Italy.
AND FURTHERMORE ....
In another coup for Canada the suddenly hip and cool, Lonely Planet has named Canada one of the top 10 countries for 2009.
The Lonely Planet folks described Canada as "ready to be feted."
"International chefs have stocked its tables with distinctive seafood, piquant cheeses and home-grown wines," they said. "Outfitters have harnessed its glaciers, mountains and spectral rainforests for epic adventures. There's always a festival rocking a street somewhere."
We're blushing already, but there was more.
"Winter or summer, Canada is a land of action, with vast areas of terrain to play on ... and (it) is well-geared for adrenaline junkies. British Columbia's Tofino has surfing, kayaking and whale-and-storm-watching. Quebec's Laurentians lets visitors ski, luge, rock climb and refuel at maple-syrup shacks. Banff in Alberta's Rockies has skiing, snowboarding, canoeing and horseback riding."
No mention of Ontario; sorry, folks. And we're not sure what that bit was about maple-syrup shacks, as the only visit this corner has made to the Laurentians was in September of this year, when the beverage of choice appeared to be decidedly alcoholic. Still, it appears the word is out on Canada, and that can't do anything but help the country's tourism industry.
As much as the 2010 Winter Olympics appear to be boosting Canada's tourism budget, the Olympics also could be helping folks in southern Russia. Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea, will host the 2014 Winter Games. And organizers announced Monday that Sheraton plans to open a hotel in Sochi in 2011.
Hertz recently opened three branches in the city as well, they said.
The Four Seasons in Scottsdale, Arizona has a promotion where you pay two nights and get the third one free. Go to www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale for more information. Rooms begin at $325 U.S. per night, plus taxes.
Scottsdale apparently has undergone quite the facelift, with tons of new development in the offing. Ditto for Dallas, according to some city representatives who popped by our little Toronto Star corner of the world the other day.
I had to admit my only contact with Dallas was covering Blue Jays games in nearby Arlington in the 1990's. It was usually around 100 degrees, so most of the time was spent in the swimming pool and not trekking to Dallas. Or Fort Worth for that matter. But Chris Bosh of the Raptors says Dallas is a good place to go, so we'll have to put it on our list for some time down the road.
CRUISING FOR DISCOUNTS
The folks at Cruise West - www.cruisewest.com - also have some deals in the works. In addition to Alaska and Europe and Asia tours, Cruise West also offers trips up the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Pacific Northwest, which is not your run-of-the-mill itinerary.