The Conference Board of Canada today released a new report on what Canadians can expect from the critical tourism industry in 2012. In a nutshell, modest growth and only marginal increases in the prices we pay to travel in Canada. Both of which are encouraging, but not quite "Woo hoo, let's have a party" forecasts.
"Growth in domestic tourism demand is projected to be modest in 2012, with overnight visits increasing by 1.9 per cent and associated travel spending increasing by 3.6 per cent," the board said. "While the outlook is positive, it is curtailed by many factors.
One of these factors is the short-term economic outlook for Canada, which remains cautious. Federal and provincial government austerity measures are expected to kick in this year, and are likely to exert a significant drag on economic growth over the next few years. Consumer confidence also remains weak and is not expected to recover to its historical average level until 2014.
In addition, prices for food and gas continue to rise. As a result, a greater share of household budgets is being spent on basic necessities, leaving less discretionary income for vacation spending."
The board says tourism from the U.S. - our largest share of customers by far - is expected to grow by just 0.5 per cent. But overseas visitors should jump a healthy 3.1 per cent, "led by robust demand from emerging markets" such as China and Brazil.
Looking ahead, the board said that "over the medium term, tourism spending is expected to pick up speed, growingby an average of 4.9 per cent per year between 2012 and 2016.
Which is why governments need to pay more attention to tourism, in my opinion, and not put folks like former minister Bev Oda in charge of tourism for the country. No offence, but the interview I had with her a few years ago was perhaps the most useless conversation I've ever had with a politician, and I've been having them for 31 years at the Star. Completely pointless it was and incredibly disheartening to think someone like her was (in theory, anyway) in charge of tourism for Canada.
The Tourism Toronto folks and the Canadian Tourism Commission both have targetted Brazil and China in their marketing efforts, although they still continue to push the U.S. and with good reason.
It appears that things will remain somewhat tight in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Ontario will see growth in domestic airport capacity but will be hurt by government cuts. The prairie provinces will probably continue about the way they have been, but it sounds like B.C. and Alberta will get the most growth.
"While the total number of overseas visitors to Canada has remained relatively stable over the past 10 years, there have been dramatic shifts in the source of those tourists," the board said today."Trips from Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany have dropped, while Canada has welcomed many more Chinese, Indian, and Brazilian tourists. This trend is expected to continue over the medium term. China’s share of overseas visits to Canada will rise from only 2 per cent in 2001 to 10 per cent by 2016, while Japan’s share is forecast to decline from 11 per cent in 2001 to 4 per cent by 2016."
The board said B.C. "can expect to see continued benefits from China’s granting of Approved Destination Status for Canada—already a popular destination among Chinese tourists."
The board's report didn't mention it, but I think Toronto will outshine the rest of the province. The new hotels alone have made a pretty good splash overseas, and we're still a month away from the opening (last I heard) of the new Shangri-la downtown (second week in August) and the new Four Seasons in Yorkville (mid-October).
So there you have it. Nothing crazy good. But nothing crazy bad, either. And these days, that's pretty good.
TALK ABOUT AIRLINE ADS
As most of us know, the airlines in Canada have already come around on "all-in pricing," moving to the concept a few months back and scrapping those horribly annoying ads that featured one-way prices and didn't include the bag fees and fuel surcharges (often in the hundreds of dollars) and other fees (let alone the sandwich fees and extra coffee for your creme fees and seat reclining surcharges).
Still, the Canadian Transportation Agency, to its credit, is still pushing ahead with rules to REQUIRE this sort of advertising. And they want Canadians to have their say.
The CTA has posted its proposal in the government's official newspaper, The Canada Gazette. Consumers have until Sept. 13 to comment.