The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) recently hosted its fifth annual Focus Canada – India 2014 event at the Crowne Plaza Kochi. This year, the B2B event witnessed participation from over 60 buyers across India and around 30 sellers from Canada, which included DMCs, hotels, tour operators and tourism boards such as Destination British Columbia, Niagara Falls Tourism Visitor and Convention Bureau, Tourism Jasper, Banff Lake Louise Tourism, Ottawa Tourism, Tourism Whistler, Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Victoria, Tourism Quebec and Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation. This event had around 80 per cent buyers participating for the first time and some even coming from Tier II cities. This year, the event also witnessed CTC focusing on spring season selling and introducing new products for the India market. The B2B exchange began with CTC sharing many interesting insights into the current position of India as a source market, and the forecast as to the growth in tourism arrivals to Canada in the current year.
According to CTC, Canada witnessed 1,47,000 visitors from India in 2013 and recorded a 16 per cent growth in arrivals in November and 19 per cent in December despite the rupee depreciation. “This growth was in the last quarter of 2013, since we did winter product marketing. However, overall we ended the year flat,” states Siobhan Chretien, regional managing director – emerging markets, Americas and Asia, CTC. As for 2014, the year is predicted to be flat for Canada with an expected growth of around 0.3 to 0.4 per cent. “This year we are expecting the growth to be constant since there are many competitions in the market and the election is also going to bring uncertainty. However, India is an emerging market for us and we have been getting double digit growth since our entry into this market” adds Chretien. Presently, India ranks eighth as a source market with China and the UK topping the list respectively. In India, Mumbai tops the list followed by Delhi. However, most of the travellers going to Canada are VFRs who visit the US and then go to Canada during their stay. While in Canada the most preferred destination is Niagara Falls, with 80 per cent of the travellers going there.
With a focus on boosting numbers from India specially during the spring season, CTC was seen promoting the Canada Signature Experiences Collection at the meet. The Signature Experiences is a collection of around 167 products among which 20 to 25 products have been specifically designed for the India market. This year, CTC along with the Canadian sellers were excited about the MICE events that were scheduled to be held mid-2014 wherein two companies – Amway (4000 delegates) and Reliance (200-300 delegates) would be having their conventions at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Furthermore, CTC also threw light on their Rendez-vous Canada 2014 and 2015 to be held in May in Vancouver and Niagara respectively.
The event also witnessed CTC speaking about its Canada specialist training programme, an online self tool which works as an effective model for product knowledge. Highlighting on this, Chretien stated, “Presently we have more than 4000 agents under this programme, which is higher than all other countries. This year we are going to make enhancements wherein there will be lot more video interactive trainings, more use of social network – so that agents who have travelled to Canada can share their experiences.”
The sellers were excited about the visa development announced by Sarah Hayward, manager, temporary resident unit, High Commission of Canada, Government of Canada at the event. According to the announcement, the Government of Canada formulated a new visa policy on February 6, 2014 wherein a single fee of 100 Canadian dollars will be charged for a multiple-entry tourist visa, which will be valid till the expiry of the passport. The policy will be applicable on both adult and child passports. Highlighting on the reason for this policy, Hayward explains,“Indians like to travel in May and June, which is the vacation period. This development will lead to a jump in tourism numbers specially in repeat customers. Visa applications are increasing and one of the government policy is to promote Canada as an economically strong country.”
Plans to open more visa application centres in collaboration with VFS was also announced at the meet. Presently, there are nine visa application centres in India including – Delhi, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru to name a few, with a recent one being opened in Pune. Speaking on the processing time taken, Hayward stated that though the processing time is 10 business days, in reality it is four to five days. There has been a growth in approved visa applications, with 2013 recording 111,000 from India as against 88,000 in 2010. Furthermore, a change in permanent immigration policy in 2015 is also on the cards.
With an expectation to tap more numbers from the India market, many Canadian sellers this year were seen exhibiting some of their new offerings to the buyers at the meet. Niagara Cruises will be starting this year attracting second time honeymooners to the Falls, informed Harvey Hamazaki, trade consultant, Asia, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation. Also the Glacier Skywalk will be opening in May, a new attraction being added by Tourism Jasper. VIA Rail Canada will be adding a new train – Prestige Sleeper Car – to their product offerings. Through this product, VIA Rail is looking at positioning themselves in the luxury segment. The route will be from Toronto to Vancouver and back. Furthermore, an announcement was made on the scheduled opening of The Moose, a 172 room hotel of Banff Lodging Co, in Spring 2016. The hotel will be located next to the Ptarmigan Inn footsteps from downtown Banff. Adding to this was Banff Lake Louise Tourism’s announcement of their annual series of events for the period – April to July, to target Indian travellers. The festivals will include – ice carving competitions, snowshoe running race, wine and food festival, bike racing, cultural events to name a few.
Despite the predicted flat year for Canada by CTC, the growth in tourism numbers from India for British Columbia (BC) would remain positive, which was expressed by all the Canadian sellers. The reasons being the new visa policy, burgeoning middle class travellers, BC’s focus on new regions this Spring, etc. “We expect a seven per cent growth in tourism arrivals in 2014, despite the predicted growth by CTC. We are promoting three regions this year – Hedley, Kelowna and Osoyoos. We are also working with the Aboriginal Tourism BC for the India market,” opines Monica Leeck, market development manager – Asia, Destination BC.