Will American interest in Canada create a surge in tourism?
Published Thursday, March 10, 2016 9:37AM EST
With so many disgruntled Americans vowing to make good on promises to immigrate to Canada if Donald Trump becomes president, Canadian tourism websites have seen a surge in visitors.
But will all those website visits turn into actual visits?
The free publicity certainly can’t be hurting us. Vogue, The New Yorker, the Washington Post and 60 Minutes have all profiled our new prime minister, who is about as anti-Trump as a leader can get.
And then there was that website launched by a Sydney, N.S. native called "Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins” that showcases the island’s finest scenery and boasts that Canada is a place where "Muslim people can roam freely” and health care is free.
That site has amassed tens of thousands of hits since it launched, and its owner, Rob Calabrese, reports he had received several serious inquiries from Americans wanting to know more about Canada’s immigration requirements.
Even a camera crew from CNN paid a visit to Cape Breton after the website’s launch.
Gabor Forgacs, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, says all that free publicity for our Maritimes is great for the country as a whole.
“The media attention is welcome because it gives us a chance to educate the American traveller. So I think this is a dream for destination marketers because now we get free media attention,” he told CTV’s Canada AM Thursday.
“Even if it’s done tongue-in-cheek, we have to do whatever we can to help Americans understand ‘Hey, this is a wonderful destination'.”
Still, Forgacs is not sure that the free publicity is necessarily going to translate into tourism dollars.
That’s because, Americans tend to have the idea that Canada is a nice place to live, but a dull place to visit.
“There’s a real disparity between our country’s image and our image as a destination,” he said.
“We score high for quality of life and as a desirable country for living, but we don’t seem to be as exciting as a travel destination for Americans.”
Part of the problem is that while Canada has “a lot of awesome destinations to offer,” so does the U.S.
“It’s also difficult to compete with U.S. destinations when it comes to cities and national parks. They have a wonderful selection to choose from. So we have to give them a reason to come across the border,” he said.
One of those “reasons to visit Canada” that tourism officials might want to promote is the Canadian dollar-U.S. dollar exchange rate.
Forgacs says many Americans, especially those in the “heartland,” far from the border, don’t even realize that the American dollar goes a long way in Canada. They are often “very pleasantly surprised” when they learn of the deals they can get, he says.
Forgacs is hopeful that Canadian tourism will get a boost this year thanks to what is being dubbed the “Trump bump” as irritated Americans look north to Canada.
“Our intent is to turn the lookers into bookers,” he said, “but that’s not easy.”