New data pinpoints sales opportunities for Canadian travel advisors
Travel advisors might feel like Capitan Ahab at the moment, scanning the seas all alone just hoping that they’ll make a catch. With lockdowns popping up again, the waters are calm.
Canadian travellers, however, will be the new white whale for the world’s destinations as the globe starts to recover from COVID-19. It’s not because Canadians are rare – on the contrary, pre-COVID-19, you could find a Canuck on vacation in nearly every corner of the globe. But as the world recovers from this debilitating pandemic, Canadians will be in such high demand that destinations will find it harder than ever to attract us. And that spells opportunity for travel advisors.
Look at the stats. Canada has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic so much more successfully than its neighbors to the south. Quicker economic growth in Q3, slightly lower unemployment, and less per capita COVID-19 infection are just some of the numbers that tell the story. As such, when it comes to North American travellers who will be best received when travelling internationally, Canadians are the clear choice.
In the recent study, Capturing the Canadian Consumer: Insights into the Path to Purchase for Canadian Travellers, more than 1,500 Canadians discussed how they are planning their next international trip.
The findings reveal a lot – too much for one article – but there are a few interesting takeaways, notably for one segment of the travel industry who should be the most interested in capturing these travellers – travel advisors.
Let’s be clear. The study is far from a crystal ball into the future, but it gives us a few places to start thinking about what’s to come. Who would have thought the autumn would have seen such serious spikes across the globe? But what is clear is that travel advisors looking to convert more bookings should start preparing now.
The findings will point travel advisors down the path to success in a few ways.
Connecting consumers and advisors
For example, it’s important to know who will even be using travel advisors on the other side of this pandemic. Approximately one-quarter of outbound Canadian travellers will utilize a travel agent/advisor when planning their next international trip and the likelihood of using an advisor increases with age. More than one-third of respondents over the age of 65 report they will use the services of a travel agent/advisor when planning their next trip.
With direct bookings and OTAs taking a greater share of client spend, travel advisors need to distinguish themselves in order to stand out. It’s time to underline your deep destination knowledge and insight to instill confidence among consumers that they are safe to travel. COVID-19 has created a flood of questions, and consumers will need more than an automated website to help them wade through it. Position yourself as a trusted guide now, setting yourself apart from the more sterile OTAs.
Types of vacations
Then of course there is the question of types of vacations Canadians will be looking forward to taking. In the short term, Canadians are more likely to travel closer to home, to a destination like the Caribbean, before heading further afield. It’s not just island getaways, however, that they are looking for when planning their next escape.
The data reveals that among a variety of choices, Canadian consumers will place beaches, history, and cultural escapes at the top of their list of must-dos. So, this is what travel advisors will be wise to promote in their marketing. Also, keep in mind that, despite lockdowns with families, Canadians are still very eager to travel with their kids, providing opportunities to sell family travel. Touting photos of engaged families traveling together are more likely to covert bookings as we emerge from the pandemic.
Getting and staying there
Once they have chosen a destination, however, Canadian consumers will be pickier about some details of their vacation than others. When it comes to flights, for example, Canadians are not afraid to embrace layovers. The study shows that Canadians are eager to get into the air again and are fearless about a connecting flight. While there are numerous considerations to make based on the data, the message is clear: don’t shy away from a connecting flight if it connects to the perfect destination for your clients.
Once in a destination, the role of accommodation likely plays a key part, with stark differences between choosing homestays or more traditional options. Homestay sites like Airbnb have not fallen to the wayside quite yet, but COVID has changed something in Canadian travellers.
It’s understandable that increased demands for safety and cleaning procedures have left Canadian consumers trusting hotels and motels more than ever. They have the staff and the reputations that travellers trust. While Airbnb has gone to great lengths to ensure safety, Canadians plan to embrace the comfort and reassurance that name brand accommodations are affording them.
Safety first and foremost
Throughout all of it, travel advisors need to do the extra legwork to put one major item front and center if Canadian travellers are to buy from them: safety and sanitization. Canadians want to travel places where COVID-19 is no longer a true threat. They could head to the Yukon or Northwest Territories, where infection rates are famously low, but most are seeking to leave the country, to reconnect with the world beyond Canada’s borders.
Travel advisors, therefore, need to promote destinations that are taking COVID-19 seriously and kicking it to the curb.
It’s not just the choice of destination, either. The airlines, railways, accommodations and other service providers that travel advisors work with should be taking things as seriously as Canadian consumers are. Be sure to confirm and advertise all possible safety and sanitization efforts with Canadian clients. Remember, Europe had pretty low rates by the end of the summer, and look what happened by October 2020. They weren’t taking it seriously. Canadians need the proof.
Travel advisors can see that the time to put all of this in place is now. While we careen towards a potentially dark winter and Canadians will be itching more than ever to look for a spring getaway, savvy travel advisors must be the light at the end of this tunnel.
The data available in Capturing the Canadian Consumer: Insights into the Path to Purchase for Canadian Travellers will be a great torch to help brighten the path.
Tania Kedikian is an account manager for Development Counsellors International based in Toronto. Her work promoting Canadian tourism has increased visitations in destinations including Belize, Scotland, and Tahiti over the years.