Destination Canada uses celebrity power to promote spending at home

The organization gets a little help from comedian Rick Mercer, news vet Peter Mansbridge and musician Gregory Charles.

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Destination Canada is tapping a few notable personalities to become national ambassadors in a campaign that’s aimed at enticing Canadians to explore their own backyard and help save the country’s tourism industry.

Comedian Rick Mercer, former news anchor Peter Mansbridge and musician Gregory Charles are among the ambassadors in new spots promoting the urgent need to support local communities, towns and provinces.

The ambassadors note in their respective videos how Canadian travellers spend around $36 billion each year outside of Canada. Destination Canada’s goal is to capture roughly half of that amount, in order to make up for the loss of international travel due to COVID-19 and support the national tourism industry.

“As we go forward, the only way that we can scale and get information [about the importance of local tourism] out there is to continue to work with influencers who help tell the story,” says Gloria Loree, senior VP of marketing strategy at Destination Canada. “They get it out to a broader [audience] and they’re trusted voices.”

Last month, the crown corporation provided a bleak and sobering projection of $62 billion in lost tourism revenue this year – a roughly 60% decline from 2019. The organization also forecasted 450,000 total jobs to be lost in the Canadian tourism this year if the industry were to continue at a standstill. These are individuals who work at tour operators, hotels, bars and restaurants – tourism jobs that account for 10% of total jobs in Canada.

“On the one hand, we’re trying to help people appreciate [local businesses] and help people understand the impact and how important Canadian spend is to help small business owners in particular,” says Loree. “We’re [also] really trying to help people find experiences they can do.”

Loree highlights Destination Canada’s updated traveller website, “Canada Nice,” as a resource for Canadians to find those experiences. The website contains resources like an interactive map of Canada, showing where there are travel restrictions and what they are. Canada Nice also provides information on how to travel safely throughout the country, must-visit stops along the national 24,140 km Great Trail, and the best road-trip spots in the country.

Based on research from Global Tourism Watch, roughly 51% of Canadians currently have “a high degree of pent-up demand” to travel, says Loree. However, only seven percent of Canadians said they feel it’s safe to travel at this time.

She says Destination Canada can close the gap when it comes to the disparity between traveller safety and demand through the marketing efforts the organization is currently engaging in, such as its celebrity ambassador content, the Canada Nice website, as well as through promoting the safety messages and initiatives that partners like Parks Canada are taking via social media.