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What International Travel May Look Like for Canadians Later This Year—What’s “In” and What’s “Out”

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While we were safely hunkered down in the house in 2020, spending money on home renovations and décor, this year a a national online survey conducted by Development Counsellors International (DCI) shows that Canadians are prioritizing travel and socking away some money for future vacations.

Tania Kedikian, account manager in the Toronto office recently revealed some of the highlights of the findings — including what’s in and what’s out when it comes to travel — in a webinar presented to the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) called 5 Insights into the Path to Purchase for Canadian Travellers in 2021. Please note that this survey was taken last August prior to second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent border closing and the webinar and Toronto Times interview happened just prior to the current flight restrictions to Caribbean destinations and enhanced travel restrictions).

Tania Kedikian, Development Counselors International (DCI)

What’s in when it comes to travel

“What’s in” as far as respondents are concerned is safe and secure destinations, and quality accommodations with strict COVID-19 protocols in place,” says Tania. “The other big takeaway is that Canadians want warm weather (79% of respondents are interested in a warm, sunny beach destination) with an abundance of natural beauty. They also want to be able to connect with the local culture and sample local culinary experiences.”

Top of mind international travel destinations selected by respondents include North America (43%), Caribbean (41%), Western Europe (34%), Central and Eastern Europe (22%), Northern Europe (21%), and South Asia (21%). Preferred Caribbean destinations include The Bahamas (36%), Cuba (31%), Dominican Republic (29%), Jamaica (28%) and Barbados (22%). Other preferred travel destinations that made the want-to-visit list included Mexico (41%), California (39%), Hawaii (35%), Florida (30%) and New York (24%).

However, 65% of respondents said they will not travel internationally until vaccines are developed and people are being widely immunized. “People realize that COVID-19 won’t end any time soon, but the virus can be controlled through immunization,” says Tania.

The study identified three distinct types of travellers: the Sunseeking Baby Boomers, the Young Experienced Travellers Under 30 and the Affluent Wanderers who make more than $200,000 a year. Across the board, travellers chose safety and safe destinations as their top priority for travel in 2021.

“While almost 80% of boomers said they prefer a warm weather destination for travel this year, a whopping 95% of respondents said their number one priority is a safe and secure destination,” says Tania. “They are the least budget conscious of the three travel types and prefer luxury and are willing to pay for it. Since safety is a priority, destinations should be promoting higher end established hotel brands and resorts rather than private residence rentals. Brand hotels are known to have a certain standards of safety protocols in place across the board which is important to today’s traveller.”

Mercado Central, Valencia photo by Terry Lankstead

The Young Experienced Traveller Under Age 30 is looking for fun, adventure and unique experiences. “Over 80% of respondents said they want robust adventure including outdoor experiences, while nearly 75% said they want to discover unique cultural experiences,” states Tania.

While over half (61%) of the Affluent Wanders said they want a beach vacation, over 50% are interested in historical sites and museums and 40% are looking for unique cultural experiences including culinary travel opportunities. This group is generally known to book on their own and take the advice of family and friends.

When it comes to how Canadians book travel, the study showed that 48% of respondents prefer to take the advice of family and friends, while 48% do general research on the internet, and 29% turn to online travel reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.

What’s out when it comes to travel

So, here’s the big question—what is “out” when it comes to international leisure travel, at least according to the DCI survey results.

Festivals and large-scale events are out,” says Tania. “People do not feel comfortable in large groups or at public events. Sixty five percent of those surveyed told us they would say no to a cruise right now, likely driven by all of the negative media attention cruise lines experienced last year.”

Romantic vacations are also out, according to the DCI survey results. “It seems that Canadians have spent enough time at home this past year with their spouse or partner, however, they told us they do want to travel with their families—their entire families including multigenerational travel.”

Also “out”—shopping trips. Says Tania: “Shopping is not important to Canadians right now as they have had plentiful shopping opportunities online and have outfitted the house already. People are choosing experiences over material goods.”

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, photo by Terry Lankstead

This is the second such study conducted by DCI, which is a destination marketing firm. “The first study was done in 2017 as we needed to know more about the Canadian traveller and this time the study has shown us how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed outbound travel. The study is relevant right now because in 2019, 21 million Canadians visited the U.S. and Canadians represent their number one inbound market–more Canadians visit the U.S. than go to Europe, the Caribbean, or any other international destination. What is surprising is the high value Canadians are placing on saving for international travel. Canadians love to travel, but they won’t travel until it is safe to do so.”

We asked Tania to look into her crystal ball and predict what travel may look like for Summer 2021. “We believe that domestic travel in Canada will dominate and not unlike last year, people will safely explore their own backyard (or province). With the PM and others telling us not to travel, realistically, the demand for international travel may not happen until the end of 2021, and even then, this is dependent on what happens with the pandemic globally and here at home.”

by Laurie Wallace-Lynch

2019 Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) Certificate of Excellence Third Place Best Food and Drink Feature

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