VANCOUVER — Canada is expanding its tourism focus towards the United States 14 years after 9/11 chilled American travel northward.
Tourism Minister Maxime Bernier said Wednesday that the timing is right to entice more U.S. travellers to come to Canada.
“One factor is the situation of the Canadian dollar. That will help to convince Americans to come here to Canada,” he told a crowd of reporters as he announced the results of a strong 2014 tourism year.
More than 17.1 million international tourists came to Canada last year. During the same period, Canada saw an increase of overnight arrivals by over 10 per cent from countries around the world.
Total tourism spending in Canada was estimated at $88.5 billion in 2014.
Bernier said the Canadian Tourism Commission, a Crown corporation that markets Canada globally as a year-round tourist destination, has been instrumental in improving tourism to Canada.
“All the markets where the CTC is investing, there’s a growth of 11 per cent,” the minister said. “So it is why we want the CTC to reinvest in the U.S. market, because there’s a big potential there for the tourism industry.”
Bernier said he hoped to see more funding allotted to tourism in the next federal budget, due next month.
Canadian Tourism Commission president David Goldstein said when the border between Canada and the U.S. “thickened” after the 9/11 terror attacks, trips to Canada fell by a third.
Canada responded by marketing itself more aggressively in emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil and Mexico as well as western Europe, increasing visitors, in some cases, as much as 30 per cent, he said.
The success of those efforts helped lead to the push for U.S. marketing.
“The American traveller, when they come and enjoy Canada, tends to develop a pattern of repeat business. So you can’t just look at what they’d spend on one vacation, but over a series,” he said.
Goldstein said re-entering the U.S. market will be careful and deliberate.
The commission’s current plan is to allocate about 10 per cent of its budget of $57 million, he said.
That figure would double once it paired with provincial tourism marketing efforts and contributions from the private sector, he noted.
Goldstein said Canada lags behind the world-wide tourism industry growth rate, but he’s confident that bringing back the American tourist would help it catch up to the level it was before 2001.