Brand USA hosts first Canada Connect show in Toronto

Brand USA kicked off the first of its sold-out segment of the 2024 Canada Connect show in Toronto on June 4.

Welcoming 35 delegates from across the U.S. and approximately 100 trade partners, the Toronto show was the first of three events by Brand USA Canada. The company anticipates another 130 agents at its Canada Connect in Montreal on June 5, followed by 74 attendees at its Calgary show on June 6.

During the event, attendees had the opportunity to network throughout the day in a series of eight-minute face-to-face sessions, learning about in-destination news and updates, as well as forging crucial partnerships within Canada’s B2B market.

A crucial partnership

As the number one source market for international visitation to the U.S., Brand USA’s senior manager, global trade development for Canada, Casey Canevari and is vice-president, global trade development for Brand USA, Jackie Ennis, both recognize the significance of establishing a strong presence in the Canadian market.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever held the Canada Connect in our number one source market so we’re really excited about it and what it’s going to bring all of our city and state partners,” said Canevari. “One of the pre-requisites we had for the partners that are here is that they had to bring somebody from their head office. This gives an opportunity for some of the destinations that may not be able to afford in-market representation to come up and get a better understanding of how things work in the Canadian market.”

Visit Texas, for example, had several destinations within the state represented, including Grapevine, El Paso, Austin and Houston. Destination representatives were able to highlight some of the more unique or lesser-known attributes of each region, from dark sky gazing in Big Bend, El Paso to wine glass tastings in Grapevine.

“When we promoted this event, we wanted to have at least one partner based in the United States and to give priority to destinations that didn’t have a presence in the Canadian market,” said Ennis. “We wanted to expand the knowledge and information for the Canadian suppliers, but also for the destinations who do have a presence, we wanted to bring someone up from the U.S. so that they have a greater understanding of the Canadian landscape is like. It’s important to see it from all points of view so that they understand the marketplace.”

“Post-pandemic, it’s all about education,” Ennis said. “Maybe Canadians think that they know the United States, but do they really know it, and about all of its diverse experiences? We’re really trying to propel that across the board so that people are intrigued to see things differently about the U.S.”

A different market

According to Canevari, the Canada Connect event was designed to start meaningful conversations with partners, eventually allowing them to understand and recognize the varying needs of the Canadian trade, in order to play to those strengths.

“Canada just operates differently, but it’s a completely different opportunity,” Canevari said. “Because it’s such a massive country, it’s a lot of area to cover and as you move across the country there are subtle differences. A lot of our partners here today operate in Ontario and Quebec, but not so much Western or Atlantic Canada, so this gives them an opportunity to play in those markets.”

By bringing in more destination partners, Brand USA is hoping to show off destinations that Canadians may not be fully aware of beyond the major gateways, like Florida and New York, for example.

“We might be 50 states, but it’s like 50 different countries sometimes, and that’s what we want to showcase so that our friendly neighbours to the south can come and enjoy,” Canevari concluded.

Brand USA Canada’s Canada Connect travel agent event happens tonight (June 5) at Gare Viger at 621 Notre-Dame St. East, Montreal, Quebec. The Calgary event takes place on June 6 at 5:30 at at The Brownstone at 221 10 Ave SE #120 in Calgary.