Canada's Federal Tourism Strategy: Welcoming the World

2. How We Support Tourism

Photo of a concert in Ottawa, Ontario. Credit: Ottawa Tourism
Photo of boats on the water near the bridge that crosses the Saint John River and the Reversing Falls in Saint John, New Brunswick. Credit: Discover Saint John

Significant federal investments and support for the industry in recent years underline the importance of tourism to Canada's economy. This support includes funding programs that support tourism businesses, the direct control and operation of iconic tourism attractions, and programs to market Canada as a destination.

In 2008–09, we invested more than $530 million in direct support for the tourism sector. This included more than $360 million in product development and tourism infrastructure, such as convention centres, and $113 million in tourism marketing. An additional $782 million was spent largely on artistic, cultural and sports-related activities that have an indirect impact on tourism. We also made significant infrastructure investments, such as in roads and bridges, in support of the industry.

In addition to this ongoing support, Canada's Economic Action Plan provided economic stimulus to the visitor economy through direct funding for marquee tourism events, national parks, cruise infrastructure and marketing. Under the Plan, we also invested billions of dollars in transportation and community infrastructure and in economic development that will provide enduring benefits to the sector.

Finally, a number of departments and agencies are responsible for policies and programs that are important to the tourism sector, such as those affecting border access, entry requirements, physical security, international air agreements and foreign relations.

The Meetings, Conventions and Incentive Travel (MC&IT) program generates business leads for Canadian partners, such as provincial marketing organizations, destination marketing organizations and hotels. In 2009, MC&IT received funding to develop and expand Canada's overseas business travel market. MC&IT now operates in the U.S. and key overseas markets to turn ordinary events into extraordinary encounters. Recent international MC&IT initiatives include the following:

  • an expanded multilingual, global MC&IT website to engage high-yield customers and encourage them to host their events in Canada;
  • an enhanced Visit Canada Program, allowing buyers to experience various Canadian destinations through site inspections and familiarization trips; and
  • a new in-market MC&IT representative with experience in the U.K. and other key European markets.
Photo of swimmers in Georgian Bay, Ontario. Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

Increasing awareness of Canada as a premier tourist destination

The Canadian Tourism Commission leads the way

logo of Locals Know.ca - Get great Canadian travel deals - explorez sans fin Canada keep exploring

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) is a federal Crown corporation and our national tourism marketing organization. In partnership with provincial, regional and municipal destination marketing organizations and the tourism industry, the CTC leads marketing initiatives around the world that inspire visitors to explore Canada. It focuses on consumer market segments with the highest potential for return on investment in 11 key foreign markets: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S. In 2009, Marketing magazine recognized the CTC as marketer of the year, highlighting the CTC's social media strategy and highly successful Locals Know campaign.

1-Photo of a tourist kite-buggying at Conrad's Beach, Nova Scotia. Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission
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In 2010, Canada became the number-one overall performing country brand in the world, according to FutureBrand's Country Brand Index. In just four years, Canada—through the efforts of the CTC and its partners from coast to coast—jumped from 12th to 1st place on the strength of a refreshed Canada brand: Canada. Keep Exploring.

In 2007, we launched Canada's revitalized tourism brand: Canada. Keep Exploring. This brand focuses on Canada's people, geography and culture. It aligns Canada's tourism brand with marketing initiatives and brings together federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and private sector partners. It also strengthens Canada's voice in the competitive international marketplace.

The CTC is a world leader in the use of social media for tourism promotion. For example, the CTC broadcasts social media-style videos from across Canada on its YouTube channel. There, visitors can see unique experiences, such as mountaintop yoga in Banff or kite surfing and sand buggying on Nova Scotia's Conrad's Beach. These are just some of the actions the CTC is taking to increase Canada's tourism brand recognition and international ranking.

Photo of tourists whale watching in Nova Scotia. Credit: Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage

The 2010 Winter Games afterglow

Photo of tourists tobogganing at Sun Peaks, British Columbia. Credit: Tourism BC/Don Weixl

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were an exceptional opportunity to raise awareness of Canada as an attractive destination. They provided high-profile venues to showcase Aboriginal culture and experiences as well as a broad range of other cultures from across the country. Billions of people were exposed to Canada right in their living rooms.

Recognizing this, we invested $26 million over five years to take advantage of the international media attention paid to Canada as a result of the Games. In partnership with other levels of government, we supplied international media with thousands of stunning images, hours of high-definition footage and hundreds of inspiring travel stories about Canada.

These efforts paid off and resulted in this material being viewed more than five billion times in television broadcasts and seen nearly four billion times in print media. Heightened interest in Canada led to substantially increased traffic on CTC websites and increased measurable travel interest in nearly all of our key international markets. This awareness is translating into travel bookings in core markets as a result of our post-Games marketing campaigns.

This extraordinary event has helped galvanize cooperation among all levels of government and a variety of tourism partners. It has also highlighted the importance of joint efforts to promote Canada to the world with a united voice.

Stimulating tourism during the global economic downturn

Tourism was identified as a strategic priority in Canada's Economic Action Plan. Budget 2009 announced $40 million in stimulus funding over two years for domestic and international tourism marketing. Using these resources, the CTC focused on priority international markets, including expanding its marketing activities in the U.S. For example, a campaign to spur new visits from Chicago reached 65 percent of travellers in that market. The CTC estimates that this campaign generated approximately $43.5 million in tourism revenue for Canada and 400 jobs in the Canadian tourism industry.

To encourage Canadians to spend their travel dollars at home, the CTC ran a national advertising program in 2009 and 2010. Forbes.com ranked the hugely successful Locals Know summer campaign among the world's top 10 travel campaigns. Overall, the CTC estimates that this two-year initiative generated $1.2 billion in tourism revenue and 10,720 jobs in the Canadian tourism sector.

We made a further one-time $8-million investment through the CTC in 2010 for marketing in priority international markets to help the Canadian tourism industry achieve greater returns in 2010–11 and beyond. Budget 2011 also announced $5 million for the CTC to promote the Calgary Stampede's 100th anniversary events in key tourism markets.

Photo of skiers at Whistler, British Columbia. Credit: Tourism BC/Randy Lincks

Developing innovative tools

The federal government is committed to helping tourism owners and operators succeed. Through the CTC, we have developed industry tool kits to help small and medium-sized businesses leverage Canada's tourism brand. We also provide tourism intelligence to help operators make business decisions, market and promote their products and services, and find their best customers. These resources help businesses transform their tourism offerings into the extraordinary experiences that will keep visitors coming back.

Showing Canada to the world

Generating new tourism business means developing a strong brand presence internationally. The CTC hosts annual business-to-business marketplaces that bring together Canadian sellers and foreign buyers from different regions of the globe, such as Showcase Canada Asia, taking place October 13–20, 2011, in Busan, South Korea. The CTC also sells Canada at major annual travel trade shows, such as ITB Berlin and the World Travel Market in London.

In addition, the Virtual Museum of Canada showcases online exhibits and features more than 2,500 heritage attractions and current museum news. This website helps stimulate interest in Canada as a tourism destination and helps travellers plan outings across the country.

Logo of the Explorer Quotient

The Explorer Quotient® (EQ) is a web tool that goes beyond demographics to examine the motivations and values behind travel decisions. Travellers take an online quiz and the EQ suggests a matching vacation adventure.

Facilitating ease of access and movement for travellers while ensuring the safety and integrity of Canada's borders

To ensure that Canada's roads, railroads, air lanes and waterways are safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible, we invest heavily in our transportation networks.

Facilitating international air travel

Since November 2006, our Blue Sky policy has encouraged long-term, sustainable competition and the development of new or expanded international air services. We have negotiated open, new or expanded air transport agreements with more than 50 countries.

  • A comprehensive air transport agreement between Canada and the European Union (EU) allows greater freedom for air carriers to fly between Canada and all 27 EU countries. For example, limits on routes for direct services and on the number of weekly flights have been removed.
  • We have Open Skies-type agreements with 14 countries, including the U.S., Brazil and South Korea.
  • We have expanded agreements with nine countries, including Mexico and Japan, and new first-time agreements with another nine, including Turkey, Panama and South Africa.

Canada now has open agreements with 39 countries representing close to three quarters of our international passenger traffic.

Photo of tourist on horseback in wheat fields in Kyle, Saskatchewan. Credit: Tourism Saskatchewan/Greg Huszar
1-Photo of tourists in a restaurant in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Credit: Tourism PEI/John Sylvester 2-Photo of a tourist riding a four-wheeler on Victoria Island, Northwest Territories. Credit: Northwest Territories Tourism/Terry Parker

Enhancing passenger convenience

In June 2010, we launched a full review of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). We announced in February 2011 that, as a result of this review, CATSA screening will be smarter, more efficient and more effective. We harmonized our prohibited items list closely with international standards to improve the passenger screening experience while maintaining a consistently high level of security. We are expanding the use of Trusted Traveller Screening for pre-approved travellers who hold a valid NEXUS card, and new equipment and lane configurations will improve the flow of passengers and bags at security screening checkpoints. CATSA now has dedicated and specially equipped lines for families and passengers with special needs to better accommodate larger items such as strollers and wheelchairs.

Speeding up access to visas

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) facilitates the entry of genuine travellers into Canada and screens potential travellers to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians. We require people from 143 countries to have visas to enter Canada. We have put in place processes to expedite the movement of legitimate travellers. We now have 40 visa application centres in 21 countries; 19 of these centres have been created in 15 countries since 2007.

In addition, the new 10-year multiple-entry visa introduced in July 2011 is now an option for low-risk travellers from countries whose citizens require a visa to enter Canada. Previously, multiple-entry visas were issued for a maximum of five years only, so this change will make the visa process more efficient for applicants and better use government resources.

We have also been working with international event organizers to make it easier for them to bring people into Canada for events. We provide information on visa and entry requirements and a point of contact at CIC to answer questions. In 2010, we helped the organizers of 170 events.

Moving people across the border

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) works with CIC to help legitimate visitors enter Canada. Budget 2010 committed $87 million over two years to buy state-of-the-art equipment for scanning conveyances and cargo and to upgrade the information systems that underpin effective border operations.

Other recent initiatives include the extension of border clearance services for a second daily Amtrak train between Vancouver and Seattle. Major border infrastructure investments, such as for twinning Route 1 in New Brunswick, are improving access and traffic flow at key land border crossings with the U.S.

Finally, we are enhancing the joint Canada‑U.S. NEXUS Trusted Traveller Program, which speeds up customs and immigration clearance for pre-approved, low-risk, frequent travellers.

Photo of tourists dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon. Credit: Government of Yukon/Joseph Bradley
1-Photo of tourists, Churchill, Manitoba. Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission 2-Photo of a fisherman, Two Lakes Provincial Park, Alberta. Credit: Travel Alberta

Improving our welcome

We know that a traveller's experience can be shaped by a single encounter or his or her first interaction in Canada after arrival. Since 2009, signage from the Welcome to Canada program has greeted international travellers arriving at airports with striking images of Canadian travel destinations. These images highlight Canada's spectacular geography, vivid culture and dynamic population. The CBSA and the CTC have also developed interactive training that helps employees enforce necessary security measures while offering a welcoming experience for visitors.

Facilitating movement within Canada

Recognizing the importance of providing safe and efficient transportation for travellers in Canada, we are making major investments in Canada's transportation infrastructure, including providing $379.5 million since 2009 for various repairs to the Champlain Bridge in Montréal and $923 million to upgrade VIA Rail passenger services. We are also modernizing Canada's transportation infrastructure by investing in other passenger rail services and in ferry services, using new resources to enhance aviation security in Canada, and ensuring the continued safety and reliability of federal bridges.

Encouraging product development and investments in Canadian tourism assets and products

The federal government is directly involved in the tourism business. We operate key attractions, such as parks and museums, and work with other levels of government to develop tourism infrastructure and create tourism experiences. These activities promote economic growth, diversification and job creation. Combined, they show our commitment to developing tourism products and to maintaining key cultural, natural and historic destinations, both in rural communities and urban areas.

Improving national parks

Our country has one of the world's greatest national parks systems. It attracts visitors, generates economic activity and brings our natural heritage closer to Canadians. We protect and manage the ecosystems of natural areas so that visitors can understand, appreciate and enjoy them in a way that will preserve them for generations to come.

1-Photo of a golfer at Windermere, Ontario. Credit: Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership

Parks Canada manages 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites, 3 national marine conservation areas, and 10 of Canada's 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the past five years, we have taken steps to add nearly 90,000 km2 to the lands and waters of our national parks system. In 2010, we celebrated the 125th anniversary of Canada's first national park, in Banff, and in 2011, we are marking the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada, the first national parks service in the world.

Our goal is to attract 10 percent more visitors to Canada's national parks and historic sites over the next five years by increasing their attractiveness as destinations and improving the quality of visitor experiences. In addition, we have frozen a number of fees, including entry fees, to help more Canadians experience treasured natural and historic places.

Parks Canada received funding of $374 million over two years through Canada's Economic Action Plan to upgrade facilities, including visitor centres, campgrounds and roads at national parks and national historic sites throughout the country. These projects include improved roads in Banff National Park, repaired walls and arches at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, and restored gates in the fortifications of the Québec National Historic Site. Budget 2011 also announced $5.5 million over five years to establish Mealy Mountains National Park in Labrador.

Fostering cultural and sports tourism

Our museums and national historic sites promote greater understanding and appreciation of our history and people throughout Canada and internationally. We support cultural, arts, heritage, official language, citizenship, Aboriginal, youth and sports initiatives, all of which benefit tourism in Canada.

Photo of a physically handicapped skier at Kimberley, British Columbia. Credit: Tourism BC/David Gluns

We also support special occasions, whether annual events, such as Canada Day, or anniversaries, such as Québec's 2008 quadricentennial. Budget 2011 announced $5 million to support lead-up commemorations and festivals in communities across Canada to celebrate the Grey Cup's 100th anniversary in 2012. Sport Canada's Hosting Program helps organizations put on major international sporting events, such as the World Men's Curling Championships that took place in Regina in 2011.

Canadian Heritage funds festivals and arts programs across Canada. These make communities not only richer and more interesting places to live but also more interesting places for tourists to visit.

Through Canada's Economic Action Plan, we delivered the two-year Marquee Tourism Events Program to support world-class programs and experiences. In its first year, the program funded 60 marquee festivals and events across Canada. In its second year, the program invested in 47 festivals and events, spreading its support to smaller communities.

Photo of fireworks at the Québec Winter Carnival, Québec City, Quebec. Credit: Prime Minister's Office photographer/Jason Ransom
1-Photo of Luminato in Toronto, Ontario Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission 2-Photo of tourist tasting wine from a barrel, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

Supporting tourism businesses

We help businesses and organizations improve their tourism products, events and attractions. This support includes not only strategic promotion activities but also efforts to develop tourism capacity through training, market readiness, quality assurance and mentoring programs. We often provide financial support in partnership with other levels of government and with Aboriginal communities.

From 1999 to 2009, the Canada Small Business Financing Program encouraged financial institutions to lend more than $4 billion to 40,000 small tourism-related businesses. The Business Development Bank of Canada currently has about $1.97 billion in financing invested in the tourism sector.

Investing in tourism and cultural infrastructure

The Building Canada Plan and Canada's Economic Action Plan both invest in infrastructure that benefits tourism, such as convention centres, exhibition halls, arts centres, and sports, recreational, cultural and heritage assets. Through its Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, Canadian Heritage also supports the construction and renovation of facilities for the performing, visual and media arts and for museum collections, heritage displays and exhibitions.

Promoting the National Capital Region as a key attraction

One of the country's most popular tourism destinations is the National Capital Region. The National Capital Commission spends $11.5 million annually on tourism-related activities and uses federal assets to make the National Capital Region a source of pride and unity for Canadians. To that end, we have formed the Federal Partners' Committee to share best practices and to coordinate programming, marketing and communications initiatives. Successful collaborations include putting on joint programs with national institutions as part of Winterlude and Canada Day, developing the Canada's Capital Museums Passport and carrying out joint marketing of educational programs for youth.

Fostering an adequate supply of skills and labour to enhance visitor experiences through quality service and hospitality

Photo of Stampede in Calgary, Alberta. Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

Canada needs a tourism workforce that can help make every visitor experience an exceptional one. We are working closely with provincial and territorial governments, and supporting the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC), to address labour market issues and promote professionalism in the tourism industry. In April 2010, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada committed $19.8 million to support the CTHRC over three years to address significant skills shortages and foster a human resources development culture in the tourism sector.

The CTHRC brings together tourism business operators, members of labour unions and associations, educators and government representatives. It supports strategic human resources and business management practices with tool kits, training guides and business tools and promotes the advantages of working in the sector. Through its emerit brand, the CTHRC has developed occupational standards and professional certification programs. It also runs the Ready to Work program, which provides skills development to facilitate the recruitment and retention of workers who are members of vulnerable groups, and the Canadian Academy of Travel and Tourism, an industry-education partnership that promotes tourism career opportunities and actively engages high school students in the tourism workforce. These initiatives contribute to the productivity and professionalism of the tourism workforce.

Logo of emerit

For employers and professionals in the Canadian tourism sector, emerit is the most recognized training and certification brand. It has become synonymous with excellence, credibility and professionalism. The emerit website offers a wealth of career development resources for professionals in tourism.

We are supporting the CTHRC in the creation of a certification program for heritage interpreters and guides in national parks and at historic sites. This program is developing the professional potential of staff while improving customer service.

Gathering world-class statistical analysis and research

We generate a wealth of data and information on the tourism sector. Statistics Canada conducts the International Travel Survey and the Travel Survey of Residents of Canada. It also maintains the Tourism Satellite Account, from which the National Tourism Indicators are derived. These statistical measures, in turn, help us, as well as the industry, carry out important analysis.

The CTC also conducts important marketing research and analysis that it shares with its partners and with the tourism community at large.

We also generate research on the visitor economy through Parks Canada, Canadian Heritage and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Bringing it all together

Photo of hiker overlooking water and mountains in Lake Louise, Alberta. Credit: Travel Alberta

Canada's unparalleled beauty and natural wonders contribute significantly to our value as a sustainable and top-of-mind tourist destination amid robust international competition. Considerable federal support helps build on these natural advantages, but we can do more to help the industry gain a competitive edge. We must bring greater coordination to our existing tourism support and strive for greater coherence in policy decisions affecting the industry. Increased alignment of federal efforts will better position Canada's industry for long-term growth.

Photo of kayaker in front of iceberg, Iceberg Alley, Newfoundland and Labrador. Credit: Newdoundland and Labrador Tourism/Destination Labrador