Canada needs to compete on the world stage when it comes to tourism, says federal tourism minister

Even if Canada is blessed with some of the world’s most incredible scenery, fascinating history and rich culture, Minister of Tourism Randy Boissonnault thinks Canadians have to get serious about competing with other countries when it comes to attracting international visitors.

“For my whole lifetime, tourism just happened. People came to Canada and it was great, but now we’re realizing and waking up to what our competitors around the world are doing, which is seeing tourism as a key economic driver,” said Boissonnault in an interview for Tourism Week 2023, noting that the industry brings in $105 billion in revenue to Canada and over $45 billion dollars to the country’s GDP.

During a speech to kick off the week in Ottawa, he said that other countries are investing hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions, because they see the future of the visitor economy and Canada has to compete with them. He believes that Canada is rounding that corner and will no longer take a passive approach, but be more intentional in attracting high value guests to the country.

One of the ways they will do that is by bringing in more business events and sporting competitions beyond the elite international sporting events and major conferences that the country is already good at attracting.

“We now have a $50-million fund over the next three years that’s going to help Destination Canada to compete on the world level, and bring those kinds of properties to Canada in communities small, medium and large in both urban and rural settings.”

Boissonnault also sees great opportunity with Indigenous tourism which he says is a critical sub-sector to the Canada tourism industry. He also noted that it was the fastest growing sub-sector before the pandemic began, reaching revenues of $1.9 billion.

“To give you a comparator, the same year New Zealand was doing about $8 billion in revenue, so we’ve got a long way to go if we want to lead the world or differentiate ourselves,” he explained, but he added that Canada had an advantage in that many of its Indigenous experiences are Indigenous owned and led, which isn’t always the case in other parts of the world.

“There are a lot of opportunities around this country to do more in this space and part of its coordination, part of it is funding and part of it is continuing to partner with economic development agencies of provinces because they’re starting to realize how big of a draw Indigenous tourism is to their province and territory.”

With every province and territory having its own tourism ministries, there was a time that the jurisdictions competed, but Boissonnault says that there has been a more collaborative approach in recent years, citing Destination Canada’s North Star 22 strategy as an example. Launched just before the pandemic began, it draws together 22 of the largest communities in the country to work together to promote the country internationally.

“Even our counterparts in the U.S. don’t have something like that and North Star 22 has been a fabulous success from a data sharing perspective, from a coordination perspective. And I can tell you that even the provincial marketing organizations realize that without the Canadian brand, most people internationally don’t know how to find them. Even the rebrand here in Alberta is now Canada’s Alberta so when you market Alberta in New York City, you don’t do it without the maple leaf as part of it.”

So what is the next big Canadian tourism destination? Boissonnault couldn’t say, but he thinks it’s the sort of question that needs to be thought through and he believes the federal government can play a coordinating role through Destination Canada.

“When it comes to destination development, that’s the responsibility of the provinces and I would keep a really close eye on what’s happening in Alberta and Quebec, because both of their provincial governments are leaning in really closely with their tourism DMOs and provincial DMOs to do this kind of work and I see the change is happening, and I see it reflected in the numbers, too.”

No matter what steps Canada takes to attract more tourists, the Minister of Tourism said that quality is more important than quantity.

“I don’t think you’re going to see us in a race to get just more numbers here. We also want to attract high value guests who are going to understand stewardship of the land,” he said, adding that the federal government is working with the country’s tourism ecosystem to make it more sustainable, even regenerative.

He applauded the example of New Zealand’s Tiaki pledge which encourages incoming tourists to promise to leave the land as they found it and be mindful in their actions while visiting. While Canada has no such pledge, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) does have its Sustainable Tourism 2030 pledge aimed at businesses within the industry to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“At the same time, we’re going to have to continue to do what we’re doing in the government with our partners to green the economy. I mean, it’s a big country, right? You don’t get from Halifax to Vancouver easily and if you want it to be there in a day or day and a half, it’s going to be on a plane,” he said, adding that biofuels, renewable diesel and other efforts to get to net zero are important to reduce the environmental footprint of the tourism industry.

One of the biggest obstacles tourism faces in Canadas is labour which is why the federal government gave $4 million in funding last year to Tourism HR Canada, a national organization with a mandate aimed at building a world-leading tourism workforce.

“Why did we do that? Because we want to get the message to high school, college and university kids that you can have a long term career in the tourism visitor economy and it can blow your mind. If you take a look at my colleague, Gudie Hutchings, who before politics was an outfitter for 35 years in Newfoundland and Labrador and had a fabulous career doing that.”

The theme of this year’s National Tourism Week is “powered by tourism” and Boissonnault believes that it couldn’t be more perfect.

“Tourism is indeed a powerhouse. This sector runs on the hard work passion and innovation of workers and the small and medium-sized enterprises that make up the ecosystem and these are businesses that are owned by women, indigenous people, racialized Canadians members, of the 2SLGBTQI+ community, persons with disabilities and so many others.”

Calm Air introduces all-inclusive holiday packages for Northern Manitoba adventures

Enjoying the aurora in Gillam, Manitoba

When you hear about a Canadian airline pitching all-inclusive holiday packages, you think that they’re going to be talking about places that are somewhere warm, but Calm Air announced this week that they’re offering new all-inclusive packages for tourists seeking a Northern Manitoba experience to places like The Pas, Flin Flon, Churchill and Thompson.

The all-inclusive packages include flights, accommodations, meals, and access to excursions to immerse visitors in nature and experiencing everything from eating moose stew after a sweat lodge to snowmobiling across Lake Apthapapuskow, or watching the aurora borealis while enjoying a six-course meal. Guests will also enjoy guided tours, dog sledding, snowshoeing in the boreal forest, and Manitoba’s one-of-a-kind Tundra Buggy within a variety of packages.

“We partnered with operators from The Pas, Flin Flon, Churchill, and Thompson, with each destination boasting unique experiences,” said  Amanda Camara, director of marketing and brand management, in a release.

“For example, The Pas is focused on Indigenous spirituality and education while Flin Flon is focused on eco-tourism and keeping active. Thompson is highlighting their status as the wolf capital of the world and Churchill is focused on the Northern Lights. Four destinations all within Manitoba, yet four extremely distinctive and authentic experiences,”

The new vacation packages are designed to cater to all types of travellers, from adventure getaways, solo travellers to families.

“We are excited that Calm Air will be offering all-inclusive packages to visitors, which will allow them to experience the best that northern Manitoba has to offer,” said the Honourable Greg Nesbitt, Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development. “As our tourist operators continue to recover economically, we believe these packages will not only attract new visitors but also encourage those who fell in love with the North once to return and experience another season or attraction.”

Kind of disappointed that Gillam isn’t on the list. Years ago, my flight was grounded there and a group of us spent the evening at the local Legion and when we left to return to our hotel, we were treated with the most spectacular Northern Lights display you could ever want to see.

Travellers can book their all-inclusive package to The Pas, Flin Flon, Thompson, or Churchill, by visiting or call 1-800-839-2256.

Can EVs compete with gas cars for road tripping? This American study takes a look

Having just bought my first electric vehicle and being a big fan of road trips, I was interested by a recent study in the United States that pitted gas cars against EVs to see which vehicle is truly the most economical on five American road trips.

Examining the time and fuel costs along iconic trails like Route 66 and California 1, the study underwritten by Upgraded Points offered a variety of insights while investigating the central question: Is saving money on gas really worth the tradeoff in travel time?

The study determined that for every 100 miles driven along these popular routes, an EV owner will save $11 but will add 25 minutes, on average. An EV trip increased travel time by over 13 hours on one route, but less than 2 hours on another.

Road Trip Study: Methodology

The study focused on five recognizable U.S. road trips of varying lengths. The routes were mapped out using Google Maps to provide exact mileage counts and travel times. To avoid traffic issues, road closures, and last-minute delays, the travel date was set for a specific weekend in April.

The costs of fuel for both gas and EVs were based on average gas/electric prices from states along each route. Estimates of fueling and charging times were sourced from the Department of Transportation and the American Petroleum Institute. Finally, the study evaluated the best states for EV charging access, using data sourced from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data and Electrek.

Five U.S. Road Trip Routes Travelled In an EV vs Gas Car:

Pacific Coast Highway: Following the California coastline starting from Dana Point and ending in San Francisco, this 523-mile journey takes 11 hours and 37 minutes in a gas car. In an EV, you would save about $65.79 but the trip would take you 2 hours and 8 minutes longer.

The Longest American Road Trip: Beginning in Boston and ending in Newport, Oregon, Route 20 spans over 3,000 miles and multiple states. EV trips will save travellers over $350 in gas, but that is easily surpassed by the time lost—an EV trip would take a whopping 13 hours and 28 minutes longer. On this trip, fuel/charging times were also substantial, with EVs taking nearly 14 hours to charge, compared to less than 20 minutes filling up gas.

Route 66, The Mother Road: Following Highway 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, the Route 66 trip would take just over 51 hours by EV, but saves drivers over $250. Gas vehicles need 7 pitstops for this journey, while EVs are looking at more than 10. Driving an electric vehicle would save about $258, but the trip would take you 10 hours longer.

The Blue Ridge Parkway: From Cherokee, North Carolina to Afton, Virginia, this journey is 470 miles of scenic beauty. Driving an EV down this route would save you about $50, but would add nearly 2 additional hours to your journey.

The Florida Coast: Following the Florida coast from Jacksonville to Key West, Route 1 visits all the major beach towns including Daytona, West Palm Beach, Miami, and more. The EV trip saves drivers over $50 in gas but adds over 2 hours to the drive.

The Longest US Road Trip, Travelled by an EV vs Gas Car

EV Usage and Charging Density, State by State

Access to charging stations is the key to a smooth and successful EV road trip. Located at grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, and other convenient locations, EVSE Ports provide power and charge with several ports per EV charging station. Access to these charging stations varies by state, with Washington D.C. coming out on top with 4 road miles per EV charging port. California offers 1 EVSE port per 10 road miles, followed by Hawaii and Massachusetts.

I’d love to see someone do something similar in Canada. One of these days, I’ll be brave enough to try a road trip with my EV, but for now, I suspect I’ll stick to using my other car which is a traditional gas-powered model.

ReCollections, a new Parks Canada’s podcast shares stories of the country’s national historic sites

I’m a fan of good podcasts so I was excited to hear that Parks Canada has unveiled ReCollections, a series that invites listeners to explore the captivating stories behind some of Canada’s national historic sites.

Each episode involves a variety of interviews with experts from across the country, exploring the sites and sharing stories that bring history to life for some of the nation’s most treasured places. There are five intitial episodes that range from a sacred Haida village in Gwaii Haanas, where the rainforest meets the wild Pacific Ocean; to Northern Newfoundland, home to the ruins of a Norse settlement dating back to the Viking age; with a stop in Dawson City, the epicentre of the Klondike Gold Rush, where Parks Canada owns a building that was a former brothel, a unique example of a female-owned and operated business in the northern boomtown; and the story of Canada’s first known Black business woman, Marie Marguerite Rose, who endured enslavement and found freedom at the Fortress of Louisbourg; and finally, a quarantine island in the Saint-Lawrence, the gateway for 4 million immigrants enroute to new lives in North America.

Episodes are available anywhere you typically stream your podcasts, as well as on the Parks Canada YouTube channel and the Parks Canada website. Learn more:

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