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Thursday,  June 13, 2024 2:11 AM 

Canada "rocking it" in 2018 at Best Western Leisure Travel Summit


Canada "rocking it" in 2018 at Best Western Leisure Travel Summit
From left: Bryson Forbes, moderator, Granite Productions; Dorothy Dowling, chief marketing officer & SVP, Best Western Hotels & Resorts; Susie Grynol, president, Hotel Association of Canada; Brian Payea, head of industry relations, TripAdvisor.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

Increased searches for Canadian travel destinations – both from within and without the country - and the ongoing love affair between Canadians and hotel loyalty programs were among the topics of discussion during the 2018 Best Western Leisure Travel Summit, which took place in downtown Toronto yesterday (May 16).

The annual summit welcomed back representatives from Best Western, TripAdvisor and the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) to discuss booking trends related to the country and as Dorothy Dowling, chief marketing officer & SVP, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, described, Canada is a very strong market currently.

“Canada is rocking it!” Dowling exclaimed, referring to strong booking numbers and searches for Canadian hotels and destinations.

While there’s been plenty of growth for Canada amongst inbound markets (particularly Japan, France, China, South Korea, India and Brazil, according to a report by Destination Canada), Canadians themselves are also looking to explore more of their home country. According to HAC President Susie Grynol, factors such as last year’s sesquicentennial and the so-called ‘Trudeau effect’ are influencing such figures, with Canadian hotels recording 66 per cent occupancy rates in 2017.

Conversely, while Canadian visitation is up over the U.S. – growing at 2.6 and 1.6 per cent respectively in 2017 – Grynol declined to attribute the difference to a ‘Trump effect’ on U.S. visitation from international markets.

Describing Canadian travellers as “point junkies,” Dowling explained that when it comes to loyalty programs, Canadians are still motivated by the potential for free room nights, while the expiration of points is the main issue Canadians take exception too, adding that many loyalty program members treat them “as a bank account,” with the vast majority of respondents to a Best Western survey – 99 per cent - stating that loyalty programs influence which hotels they will stay at.

Adding to that point, Brian Payea, TripAdvisor’s head of industry relations, said that according to a survey of TripAdvisor users regarding loyalty programs, factors such as price and the availability and accuracy of information regarding properties are the main drivers of which programs users will join.

Grynol also updated attendees on ongoing actions by the HAC versus the commercial component of Airbnb, which accounts for 80 per cent of the online booking channel’s Canadian revenue. Stressing that the measures are not intended to target individual property owners offering their homes as short-term rental accommodations, Grynol explained that the HAC is calling on all levels of government “to create a level playing field” through a combination of taxation, licencing and municipal bylaw enforcement. Cities such as Toronto and Vancouver as well as the province of Quebec have recently taken steps to reign in Airbnb hosts offering large numbers of rooms, who operate as de facto underground hoteliers.

More takeaways from the 2018 Best Western Leisure Travel Summit:

  • While purely leisure travel will continue to dominate, the ‘bleisure’ market continues to grow, particularly amongst male business travellers.
  • Best Western currently has 26 hotels in the pipeline for Canada, including its first GLō hotel planned for Kanata, Ontario. The company will also launch a chatbot for its Best Western Rewards program and will add its support to a new AI program from Weather.com.
  • Trends in Canadian travel include an uptick in the growing indigenous travel space, as more travellers look for cultural and authentic experiences.
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