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Canadian connections

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The recently concluded, Canadian Tourism Commission’s (CTC) 4th annual marketplace Showcase Canada Asia 2012 event which was held in Osaka, Japan, attended by four of CTC’s key international markets – China, Japan, Korea and India, witnessed over 250 buyers and 87 sellers spread across the four countries. There were 40 Indian buyers pan India who attended the event. The Indian buyers along with their Canadian suppliers were upbeat about their business links and were unanimous in their opinion that their partnership is long-term and based on sound market research and customer feedback. For Bob Nicholas, vice-president, global sales and Robert A Halfpenny, director, sales – Asia Pacific, Rocky Mountaineer, India is their strongest market by far and they only see strengthening their ties further with the Indian partners in the future.

The event received a positive response from the India market and the buyers felt the destination is definitely getting increasingly serious and committed to the India market over the years. The event which has a proven format of pre-scheduled appointments and networking events, allowed Canadian sellers to meet with buyers from China, Japan, Korea and India in an intense business-to-business marketplace. Canada aims to continue its efforts to work closely with its buyers and offer buyers new products on a consistent basis. The trade action unfolded over five days (15-19 October) at the Ritz-Carlton in Osaka, Japan. From hospitality suppliers, ground handling companies, tourism boards to a gamut of tourism products, ranging from adventure to gourmet tourism were present at the event. Chalres McKee, VP, International, CTC and Siobhan Chretien, regional MD, CTC, were upbeat about the India market. They clearly expressed their view that India has emerged as one of their top promising markets with an encouraging increase in business from the region.

CTC’s Canada specialist training programmes, which is at two levels in nine languages and 11 models, is an online self tool which works as an effective model for product knowledge.

Highlighting the growth story further, SanJeet, Indian representative, CTC, said, “Ever since its inception in India the CTC has captured a greater share of the Indian long-haul market. Canada has a diverse and unique set of experiences that has helped to lure high-yield visitors. It has everything for everyone. Indian travellers view Canada with great interest as a new vista to explore. In 2012, we connected with consumers, trade and media in different ways through joint marketing initiatives, travel-agent training, sales activities and organised visits to experience Canada first-hand.

The figures for the past few years have been indicating a mixed profile of Indian travellers to Canada.” Sharing some statistics, he further adds, “During the period January to December 2011, Canada welcomed 139,213 Indian visitors, a rise of 9.1 per cent over the past year. In 2011 Ontario posted a 14.9 per cent increase in Indian visitors over 2010, welcoming 77,286 Indian travellers Total spending by travellers from this market grew 11.2 per cent to US$160.9 million. Till now the year-to-date per cent change in Indian arrivals to Canada is 7.7 per cent and we hope to close it in a double digit.”

Via Rail Canada registers 20 per cent increase in India passangers
VIA Rail, the national railway service of Canada has seen an increase in the number of Indian passengers travelling to Canada. Indian passengers using VIA Rail services is accelerating steadily and the trend has seen an increase of 20 more Indians using the rail since 2011. Realising the importance of Indian tourism as an emerging sector, VIA plans to work on a consultative basis with the India’s travel trade to provide extensive product knowledge and destination information. The national railway service of Canada has a marketing strategy focused on partnering with the Canadian Tourism Commission to promote activities and engage the industry with familiarisation trips. Starting December, six new departures from Montréal, Québec City, Ottawa and Toronto, as well as a new route, Québec City to Ottawa via Montréal, will be added to the VIA Rail schedule. Addressing concerns of vegetarian food and excess luggage faced by many Indian travellers, the company assures that their policies are well suited for Indians. Travellers will be able to sit back and enjoy the quality of the on-board service, the world-class mobile Wi-Fi and the comfort of rail travel. VIA Rail has up to 497 departures weekly, connects over 450 Canadian communities, transports 4.1 million passengers yearly.

Addressing buyer demand

The suppliers sounded upbeat about their business links with Indian buyers and many did agree that they were getting increasingly aware of the needs, temperaments and preferences of the Indian traveller as compared to the past. There are products that are being designed to meet the requirement of the customer. From printing regional language brochures for the client to that of offering the facility to bring a cook, there are a host of examples to prove that Canada Tourism is keen to invest further in India. Barbara Kosterski, principal, Perk Consulting and representative Banff Aspen Lodge rightly mentions, “As buyers and sellers we need to understand each other to work well as partners. We need to teach each other. It is important to meet the needs of the Indian customer and provide the flexibility when it comes to food as per their requirement.”

A Douglas Birrell, president, Canadian Niagara Hotels, which is Niagara Falls’ largest hotel, restaurant and entertainment complex, is also of the opinion that it is crucial to cater to the Indian palate. Indians come into the area all year round and they are an important segment to the business, he feels. But he is also keen to educate the client on things that one can do beyond just the Niagara experience in the region.

Education seems to be the keyword that both the buyers and sellers need to keep in mind while selling the destination. Apart from Indian citizens who have started visiting Canada as a destination, there is a large population of NRIs who visit the place from the USA and also venture into domestic journeys within Canada. Further, the VFR traffic from India and other regions into Canada are also witnessing a changing trend. The VFR segment is starting to live in hotels and other accommodation options rather than living with their families. This observation was expressed by Ursula Barda, national sales manager, and Tim Oldfield, MD, Choice Hotels Canada. They were of the opinion that the demand from India is on the rise which is encouraging. Offering modified breakfast plans to suit the Indian demand is also what they offer to the clients.

Buyers Speak

It was a very good platform to meet quality suppliers and proved to be an excellent interactive opportunity between buyers and sellers. There were a lot of products being introduced which I was also aware of. We have a lot of options to provide to our clients and I am confident we can sell Canada well. We are in touch with all these buyers and were happy to be part of the experience. People were informative and friendly. In fact one of the sellers even came over to Mumbai to visit us after the event. We are promoting it as a destination.

Madhuri Erach Kanga, partner, Ahura Travels, Mumbai

I am attending it for the second time and there are new products to see. The market has matured to accept new products. The Gujarat market is very strong for Canada. USA, Canada and the Alaskan cruise are getting very popular. Vegetarian food is no more a hindrance as the destination caters to same.

Mahendra Vakharia, MD, Pathfinders Holidays, Ahmedabad

This was the first Canada Showcase I attended and it was a fruitful experience. We are in touch with the hoteliers and suppliers and we are expecting bookings from March onwards as the traffic starts then. We are also selling Canada as an exclusive destination and are planning itineraries accordingly.

Samina Munshi, director, N Chirag Travels, New Delhi

Canada is a new product which is receiving encouraging response from our clientele. The business is on the rise. We cater to large movements of the Jain community and also carry our own chef with us to the destination. We are upbeat about the Canadian market.

Jatin Shah, Comfort Holidays, Mumbai

People in the South of India are very well travelled. They are constantly looking for new destinations. Canada as a destination fits in well in its place. Jasper, Whistler and the snow capped hills and regions are an attraction.

Manish Kriplani, Baywatch Destination Management, Chennai

Canada Tourism is working hard with the India market. The showcase event was very helpful as we could get new ideas and new products could be developed. We are selling it for years, it is not a new destination for us, but the logistics does create some hindrance and it will take a little while to be a leading long haul destination.

Pratika Shete, Kesari Tours, manager – commercial & contracting, Mumbai

Nathalie Revah, national director, tour and travel for Gouverner Hotels, has gone ahead by printing brochures in Hindi and also documented Indian restaurants in the region for the benefit of the Indian clientele. Corien Srieders, director, marketing and sales, The Crossing Resort, which is on the Icefield Parkway and in the middle of the Banff National Park has ensured that Indian food is available at the resort. “From high end hospitality properties to the boutique and the budget ones, there is a definite awakening toward the Indian market. Whether it is Travelodge Canada, with interesting budget options to the Ritz Carlton and Fairmont Raffles Hotels International they are ready to cater to the Indian clientele. Brandon Furyk, director, global sales, tour & wholesale and Tekla Maira, director global sales, India, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International have dedicated Indian chefs onboard who cater to the clients. It is interesting to note the interest expressed for the India market and the fact that suppliers are ready to make amendments to meet their India clientele requirements. Properties that may not have had India in their emerging markets list, are now hoping to share a slice of the India pie.

Sophia Yang of the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel has expressed her view to seriously get into the India market. The Indian wedding market is an interesting attraction that they aim to tap further. Hotel Delta Chelsea works closely with the diplomatic circle and government officials. Josef Abner, regional VP and MD of the Toronto based hotel is of the view that India as compared to China is slower in terms of business for them, but an interesting segment to tap. Their team is working toward the Indian market and is confident that the Indian business will be up in the near future.

Tourism Boards at Showcase Canada
  1. Tourism British Colombia
  2. Tourism Jasper
  3. Tourism Kamloops
  4. Tourism Montreal
  5. Tourism Quebec
  6. Tourism Victoria
  7. Tourism Vancouver
  8. Tourism Toronto
  9. Tourism Richmond
  10. Tourism Prince Edward Islands
  11. Tourism Laurentides
  12. Ontario Tourism
  13. Ottawa Tourism
  14. Yukon Tourism and Culture, government of Yukon

New players

Though there are a number of established players and attractions in the Canadian region who have made inroads in India, namely The Butchart Gardens in Victoria region, the Banff and Jasper region players and of course, the Niagara Falls, the product is vast and there are a number of players waiting to attract the Indian clientele. One such player amongst a host of others is the Prince of Whales, whale watching boat journey. Paulo O’Connor of the company confesses that they haven’t yet worked with an Indian and are very keen to connect with the Indian clientele. He felt the Showcase was the perfect place to network and offer his product to the India market. RPB Hotels and Resorts, are also keen to work with the India market, which has not been active with the group. Newer regions 1000 Island Accommodation Partners and 1000 Islands Rockport boat Line are also keen to enhance their ties with India.

Calgary Stampede which is a popular event is also hoping to create more awareness about the experience amongst Indians. Linday Jardine, tourism sales manager of Calgary Stampede, said that, India for them is an emerging market and would keep bringing in tourists from this fast growing market. The event celebrates 100 years in 2012 and it is for niche clientele. The Icefield Tours and Kananaskis Heli tours are also keen to get more business from India. Dylan McMilan, of the company has noticed an increased interest and movement in business from India but he feels there is so much more to tap and offer. From weddings to fishing a lot can be done by the team. Brewster Travel Canada, also has an interesting product coming up in 2014, which is the Glacier Discovery Walk. Larry Gale of Brewster says, “The product will be a definite seller and we are working towards promoting it in the India market.”

The north of Canada though not as popular yet with the Indian clientele has a lot to offer. The Aurora Village in the Yellowknife region in the north territory is known for the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights viewing and would be glad to receive more Indian to experience this unique phenomenon. Ragner Wesstrom, of the Enodah Wilderness Travel, is also keen to promote the product in the Indian market, which is for the discerning traveller. Another product on the same line is Frontiers North Adventures, Winnipeg, represented by Lynda and Merv Gunter. They are famous for their Churchill’s Polar Bear tours and also own and operate the Tundra Buggy Company. The winter Northern Lights in Churchill and Manitoba can be viewed with them. Niagara IMAX Theatre is also keen to capture the Indian business. Banff Lake Louise Tourism is also working toward bringing in India clientele.

Showcase Canada also featured representatives from Vancouver Convention Centre, who were aiming at the MICE segment, Vancouver Airport Authority, World Duty Free, WestJet amongst others.