Destination Europe 2020 program aims to deliver lots more Canadians
They’re after us.
The European Union, for the first time ever, is launching a new program to lure tourists to Europe as a whole. And Canadians are a prime target.
The “Destination Europe 2020” campaign is a modest campaign as these things go, less than $2 million, but it’s interesting that European countries have banded together for an overall “Come See Europe” campaign for the first time ever.
The parallels are pretty strong with the U.S., which in the last year or so launched Brand USA as an overall marketing tool to lure tourists to the land of Uncle Sam.
The Europe campaign is aimed solely at four countries: Canada, the U.S., Brazil and China, and it’s mostly going to be social media and on-line.
They’re asking folks to go to visiteurope.com and build a dream vacation and then “sharing their most inspiring discoveries” with friends and family.
I got a kick out of the visit europe site this morning. I mean, where else would you find three quotes about traveling in Europe from such disparate sources as Mark Twain, Puff Daddy and travel writer extraordinaire Bill Bryson?
In addition to the website, the ETC also is planning something called “Ensemble Europe” as a big “industry workshop” in Toronto in February, 2013, according to an online summary of Destination Europe 2020. They’ll hold similar workshops in Brazil, China and in New York City and report back on those at the giant ITB travel show in Berlin in March of next year.
ETC chief Eduardo Santander, a native of Spain who has worked with Vail Resorts in Denver and Innsbruck, told me his organization actually was formed in 1948 as part of the Marshall Plan to save Europe after World War II.
“We realize the tourism sector could really push the economy,” Santander said. “Ten per cent of the European GDP is directly related to tourism, and tourism provides about 102 million jobs. That’s roughly equivalent to the population of Austria or Belgium.”
He didn’t have the list in front of him, but Santander told me eight of the world’s top ten tourist sites are in Europe. (Hmmm….The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The Colosseum are there I’m sure. Maybe the Berlin Wall and Notre Dame and the city of Florence as a whole? Eight seems a tad high to me but he may be right.)
Anyway, there’s no doubting Europe’s popularity with Canadians, as some 4.3 million of us made the trek in 2011.
While a lot of young travelers are heading to Asia to travel more cheaply, Santander says Europe isn’t as expensive as folks might think.
“There’s a Europe for every pocketbook,” he said. “You can spend $5,000 a night, sure, but you also can have a wonderful holiday for just a few dollars.”
I’ve seen European hotels on hotwire.com and hotels.com for incredibly low amounts; four-star properties in Madrid and Lisbon in January or March of next year for $60 or $70, and three-stars for $40 or $50.
“Skiing is a lot cheaper in Europe, too,” Santander said. “You can get ski passes for as little as 30 Euros a day. Not like in Canada.”
Europe, of course, offers a huge degree of diversity; Alpine villages, sunny coastlines, historic cities, modern art galleries, and an incredible array of cultures in a small area.
“Asia’s wonderful, but it’s not Europe,” he said with a smile.
Asked if Europe’s economic troubles have caused an issue for tourism, Santander nodded.
“I don’t think the brand has been damaged. Not yet. People still want to travel to Europe. We’re trying to bring it closer.”
The Destination Europe 2020 budget isn’t much, but it’s at least a move in the right direction and is a strong contrast to the huge cuts that have been made to Canada’s tourism marketing. The Harper government has made serious cuts to Parks Canada budgets and the money flowing to the Canadian Tourism Commission also has been curtailed.
Those cuts are coming despite the fact that Canada has slipped – badly – in terms of international tourism. The travel industry association of Canada says Canada was seventh in the world in international arrivals in 2006 but is now down to 20th.