Nov 27, 2017 -Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON _ Canada celebrated its 150th birthday in 2017 but it was the tourism industry that got to collect the presents.
Tourism operators from coast to coast were planning for big events and extra visitors, and in many cases the numbers have exceeded expectations even before the year draws to a close.
“Double digit increases in every part of the country,” said Gary Howard of the Canadian Automobile Association.
“It’s not just international travellers, primarily it was a lot of Canadians who wanted to see more of their country that they hadn’t seen before.”
Destination Canada, a federal Crown corporation, ran a campaign aimed at millennials in an effort to instil a “sense of pride” in the country and have them become lifetime ambassadors for Canada both at home and abroad. The organization reported a 16 per cent increase in the number of Canadian millennials who vacationed within the country this year.
Jantine Van Kregten, director of communications for Ottawa Tourism, said Canada 150 promotions and advertising did a lot to attract people from other countries, as did Lonely Planet and the New York Times naming Canada as the No. 1 place to visit in 2017.
“I think it did lead people to make the decision, out of any year to visit Canada, this is going to be the year. Canada has always been one of those dream destinations for a lot of overseas visitors,” Van Kregten said.
Howard said there was a lot of preparation leading up to Canada 150 and tourism operators were ready.
“Cruise lines had larger ships, there was an increase in rail capacity, and tour operators created more Canadian-ized packages,” he said.
Randy Vogel, the owner/operator of the Granville House Bed and Breakfast in Vancouver, said business was booming this year. He’s on track for the highest annual revenue in the 20-year history of the business.
“Canada 150 helped our business out and helped tourism in general,” he said, but added that the value of the loonie was also a big factor.
“A weak Canadian dollar will always attract more business than any of the big campaigns. When you’ve got an 80 cent dollar to the U.S., reasonable flights, and 150 birthday as a reason to come _ we get business.”
At the other end of the country, the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown is also reporting a record year.
“We consciously jumped on this opportunity at the Confederation Centre because after all, it is a memorial to the founding of Canada, so we figured it was impossible to ignore. Right from the first of the year we looked for opportunities to promote it and talk about it,” said Carol Horne, the centre’s chief marketing officer.
Horne said aside from packed performances inside the centre, there were free shows outside in the evenings and their Confederation players portrayed historic Canadian figures in vignettes throughout Charlottetown _ known as the birthplace of Confederation.
“The activity level around the building really impressed us,” Horne said.
“Canada 150 helped us draw attention to a lot of things, and people were happy to have lots to do when they got here.”