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.

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:

What would the Northern Lights look like to the colourblind?

Northern Lights glasses for the colourblind

If you’re lucky enough to have seen the Northern Lights, you know how  colourful they can be, but if you’re one of the many people who are colourblind, you can’t really enjoy this natural display to its fullest.

Travel Yukon and EnChroma, a leading producer of glasses for colourblindness and low vision, decided to do something about that. They teamed up to make the show-stopping Aurora Borealis more accessible than ever before for the colourblind, and provided one Canadian with the chance to see it in full colour for the first time.

Russell Basilio experiences colourblindness. He sees colour in dull hues, especially red and green, which leaves him to interpret the beauty of the world through shapes and textures. In order to demonstrate the power of this new accessibility, Travel Yukon took Russell on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to experience the northern lights in their truest colourful form.

“Growing up colourblind I always knew I saw the world differently. My sister would describe things to me like the northern lights, but I never really understood what that meant,” said Russell Basilio. “To experience the northern lights in colour with my sister by my side was a gift.”

“With dynamic lights and fantastic hues of greens, purples and reds, the northern lights are one of Yukon’s most beautiful natural phenomena,” said Robin Anderson, Global Marketing Manager at Travel Yukon. “We are grateful for the opportunity to have worked with EnChroma to allow Russell to discover what makes the Yukon one of the best places in the world to experience incredible northern lights viewing.”

Special optical filters in EnChroma glasses expand the range of colours someone who is colourblind can see and make colours more vibrant, clear and distinct to help them experience more of life’s colourful moments and overcome challenges while travelling and in daily life. By coming together, EnChroma and Travel Yukon were able to provide Russell with a week of colourful moments that will last a lifetime.

You can learn more about Russell’s adventure at

Canadian Geographic Adventures will help CanGeo readers discover the world

With a mission on making Canada better known to Canadians and to the world, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is collaborating with  Canadian and international travel partners to draw readers off the pages of Canadian Geographic magazine and into the field through immersive travel.

The Society launched a new venture Tuesday called Canadian Geographic Adventures which features a selection of curated travel experiences that it calls its Designated Travel Collection.

The small-group tours that make up the Designated Travel Collection include multi-day, locally-guided,  experiences in each of Canada’s province and territories and around the world with a strong focus on sustainability and the celebration of people and place.

Each trip hosts a notable RCGS Ambassador, adding incredible insight into the Society and Canadian Geographic, and each travel operator within the Designated Travel Collection supports RCGS programming with a contribution from every booking.

“Geography is a vast, interesting and inclusive paradigm that explores the connections between people and place,” said John Geiger, CEO of the RCGS, in a release. “We aim to further that connection by giving Canadians a chance to experience first-hand the incredible stories we cover in Canadian Geographic magazine through guided multi-day adventures hosted by an RCGS Ambassador and partnered with exceptional operators across the country. This robust offering will form the Designated Travel Collection.”

A selection of experiences from Canadian Geographic Adventures and its Designated Travel Collection include:

More information about Canadian Geographic Adventures can be found at