Are We Missing An Opportunity For Canada Tourism Recovery Skills Training?
Is Canadian tourism a reactive industry or a proactive industry?
“Prioritize your tourism business marketing activities for the future and let the tourism associations worry about the now.”
What is up with the recovery plan of Canada tourism? So many mixed messages regionally, provincially and nationally. Businesses are confused. Small communities are lost in the shuffle. Will the real tourism solution please step forward.
Have you ever met someone, who thinks they know everything? We all have. They act so confident, when things are going well, as if they had everything to do with it. Then, when the bottom drops out, when all the external positive influences which made them look successful are no longer relevant, panic sets in, finger pointing starts, and their true colors emerge. What many viewed as confidence, now looks more like arrogance and cockiness. Covid 19 has humbled many.
We Watched & Waited For A Canada Tourism Recovery Plan
For 6 months we sat back and watched how the Canada tourism industry was going to react to the COVID 19 pandemic. Four months into the pandemic we were still waiting? At that point we were receiving emails, phone calls and social media posts from our participating tourism customers asking what is up with the tourism associations?
“The tourism associations are in our face, asking for money, when things are going well. But when things go south they are nowhere to be found?” ehCanadaTravel.com advertiser
Tourism Association Tough Times
We, like our advertisers and clients, anticipated some new exciting ideas, marketing programs, and platforms. Teach us something, tourism businesses were saying! Surely a large, heavily funded association, with self proclaimed tourism experts, would be capable of developing new Canada tourism recovery plans, ideas and technology to assist small tourism businesses through the next 2 years of uncertainty. You would think right? Unfortunately, all we got were template letters, COVID 19 links, statistics (to remind us how bad it is), tourism CEO “poor us” emails, telephone help lines, tool kits, and tourism resiliency plans. All surface materials for the now? How is that working out for you so far small business Canada?
“While we have seen an uptick in a very few specific areas, and while some of the attractions, restaurants and hotels may be able to pay their bills for this month, when you take March through June and then what’s anticipated beyond September, the outlook is still very, very bleak.” Walt Judas, Tourism Industry Association of B.C. CEO.
Government of Canada Has Done The Heavy Lifting
We now know why the wait? The tourism associations did not have a rainy day fund of any sort and, still to this day, they are asking for more Government bail outs. Here is where we shake our heads in disbelief. The Government of Canada has already done, for the last 2 months, much of the heavy lifting when it comes to informing and educating Canadians on how to properly travel Canada in the coming months during this pandemic. Almost every day tourism travel policy, etiquette and restrictions are hammered into our skulls by our Prime Minister, Provincial Premiers and Community Mayors during their daily briefings. Most of us get it.
Is Tourism Looking At The Big Picture
So it makes you go hummmm… when this massive “awareness campaign” pushed out by our Governments, and every community hits home… and our provincial tourism associations are spending millions of dollars on “staycation” commercials? Huh? Before we saw the first commercial, a month ago, we all knew it was staycations or nothing. Those expensive pretty, shiny tourism association commercials told us nothing new and cost Canadians a ton? By all accounts… it looks like the tourism associations are following the old playbook once again. It is time to think innovation not duplication.
Opportunity To Educate Tourism
The millions it took to advertise each province, in each province, could of been applied to develop new platforms and programs to assist small communities and tourism businesses in the skills necessary for self survival. Tourism needs to recover from the ground up, not top down. The industry needs skills and programs which would assist tourism businesses in getting through the upcoming Canadian Fall Season and 2 years of uncertainty. And, maybe, just maybe, with training and the right tools, small business Canada could scratch out a living in the next 2 or 3 years?
“A Tourism Industry Association of Canada report predicts that without further support, some 61,000 tourism businesses in Canada, or 57 per cent, are projected to fail, putting 1.66 million Canadians out of work.”
Here is a thought! What if the associations invested in training programs and developed new platforms for small tourism businesses to learn the ins and outs of social media marketing, websites and search engines. The next big battle field to win over travelers will be on search engines, social media and planning travel websites because people are researching more. Planning travel is at an all time high. We know, we operate Canada’s largest privately owned and operated travel planning and booking website, and the numbers are way up!
No longer are travelers booking accommodations on corporate OTA websites with blinders on. (Plus, you should know, they are not the cheapest rates. Go to the accommodation website for the best rates.) Nor are we visiting destinations anymore with a click of a button. In the new tourism abnormal there are so many factors in planning a vacation, road trip or adventure, the short cuts are taken out of the equation.
Confidence In One’s Skills Creates Revenues
Right now, with the right skills training, small tourism communities, non profits, events, attractions and small businesses could be pumping out information at a frantic pace. They could be targeting new travel markets, interest groups and adventure seekers… as well as… developing their physical inventory, attracting new investments and growing seasons. A lot cheaper and greater long term effects than any tourism tv commercial could ever achieve. Why is this not being done? Plus, statistics show people trust information, stories and experiences told by everyday people over fat cat corporations.
“The tools are available right now for businesses, communities and regions to be self reliant. As an industry we need to come to the realization that this is not the 1980’s anymore.” Greg Girard
Tourism Recovery Pet Peeve
Here is a pet peeve of mine which stems way back to my corporate suit-and-tie days. It is called suck-holing. Sorry if this offends you, but it needs to be pointed out. I am sure you have heard of it and, maybe even witnessed it. Regardless, it is happening right now in the tourism industry online! It is so hard to watch as tourism stakeholders, industry experts and big businesses continue to pull the company line regardless of what is happening around them. They sit in their corporate castles and flood social media with glowing comments on anything coming out of the association’s mouth during the pandemic? Are they living in the same world as us?
Check out Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and (worst of all) LinkedIn. These “big wig” stakeholders try so hard to stay in the good books of corporate tourism they spin everything. Maybe they do it so they can get the next big contract? Or maybe they are lining themselves up to be the next keynote speaker. Or a seat is opening up on the board? Who knows their hidden agenda? But how, in their right mind, can anyone think tourism associations are doing a good job boggles my mind. Businesses are crumbling! I can only conclude they are not talking to the same businesses we are talking to.
The New Cool For Corporate Canada?
The suck-holing (sorry again) is so thick at times it is hard to finish reading the social media threads. One thing I have noticed is that there is rarely a small business owner commenting – always big business, and high end tourism consulting firms. No Mama Maria’s B&B or Jack’s Kayak Tours or Emily’s Cottage Resort. Hmmm… makes you think right? Being an ex-corporate suit-and-tie robot (best decision of my life was leaving that world) I notice these details. And it brings back the horror stories I witnessed, the corporate privilege and culture of yesteryear. Not an environment I wish to join.
No Rainy Days for Sunshine Tourism
Lets be honest about our tourism association stakeholders. They messed up big time. Now their memberships are paying the price and some small businesses may be going down with the ship. How can this happen? The associations were given hundreds of millions of funding every year, and their is no emergency fund? What! No rainy day fund? Really! We learned that in High School in economics class. Now we know who skipped this class.
Start Building Connections
Tourism association stakeholders were traveling all over the world in groups of 10, 20 or more pre-COVID 19. Their entourage staying at the best hotels and attending the biggest conferences flaunting their privileges. What was it all for? Was it for the selfie with a big wig, or that photo where you are standing on a stage? Did you spend all that money in travel expenses to fetch your $30 trophy or $10 framed certificate? Where is the ROI in this? Much of what was going on, pre COVID 19, was disguised as networking, and connection building? When really it was padding resumes and collecting accolades.
Was the Domestic Market Taken For Granted?
One can only come to the conclusion that it was more important to pad their resume with awards then developing products for your front line tourism businesses and a strong domestic market. Domestic accounts for 30% in Canada, while in Australia it is hoovering at 80% pre COVID 19. Our tourism leaders decided to spend arm loads of money on China instead – a regime which can turn off the tourism taps with one slam of the communist gavel. The air travel (as the bird flies) between Canada and China is 9,410 KM and it is an 11 hour flight non stop. Could you have not picked a closer target market?
Procrastination is Not Your Friend
Now, whether we want to admit it or not, small tourism businesses are on their own. If you think the millions in bail out money that is going to the regional and provincial tourism associations is going to filter down into your small business, you may be waiting for a very long time. The regional and provincial tourism associations are in self preservation mode.
What is the Answer to a Canada Tourism Recovery Plan?
No one knows where tourism will be in the future. But we do know the battle for travelers will be online. Start educating yourself. Learn new skills. Start new content marketing programs. Position your business on search engines and social media. Yes, social media too. Hashtags (#) are becoming the new search engine for many.
Re think your daily routines and scheduling
Prioritize your marketing activities for the future and let the tourism associations worry about the now. Be battle ready online. Start targeting new markets, and be ready for when people are searching your destination, your region, adventures, safety protocols, travel restrictions, low season travel, etc. Do not rely on tourism associations to get your business in front of the traveler. It is now your job to make the marketing decisions.
The “Plug” That Your Community Needs To Stop The Bleeding
After a 10 year study of over 1000+ small and rural communities in Canada, EH? Travel Marketing Group has developed a proven, economical and successful content marketing and social media marketing program created especially for small and rural Canadian communities and small businesses. The program, Experience Community Program, has been featured in Australia, United Kingdom, BC Business and was nominated for a Canadian Tourism Association Innovation Award. The EH? Travel Marketing Group is currently short listed for the 2020 Hospitality Awards by Lux Magazine and the AI Group of Magazines. Contact media(at)ehcanadtravel(dot)com for a marketing package and if you want to take control of your tourism and future economic development.
Opportunity For Canadian Tourism Recovery Skills Training
What Canada Tourism Recovery Plan Are You Building?
“Leave No Tourism Business Behind”
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Small Town Canada Community Consultant / Co Founder at eh Canada Travel
Greg Girard is a co founding brother of the award winning adventure and travel website and blog ehCanadaTravel.com. Greg is also a top ranked Canadian travel blogger who enjoys public speaking, and working with as many small and rural Canadian communities as possible. Greg is an avid outdoor enthusiasts and amateur photographer who enjoys backpacking, road trips, wilderness camping, snowboarding and what he calls hacking (what others would call golf).
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