Local tourism agencies shift marketing to educate U.S. visitors
Local tourism officials are taking another look at how they market to the U.S. It is a move to stave off the impacts of the pandemic.
Their plans focus on passive actions such as enlisting marketing students to review current promotions. But some tourist groups are also looking at more direct tactics, including how best to explain Canada's COVID-19 regulations to Americans.
Mark Perrin, the executive director of Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, says the latter move is necessary to help attract and reassure Americans looking to travel to southwestern Ontario this spring and summer.
“We need to make sure the message is, 'Hey, things are under control here in Canada,':
Perrin says constant changes in regulations have confused U.S. visitors even between COVID-19 waves.
That includes, Perrin says, some unvaccinated Americans unaware they won’t be let in.
In 2022, he suggests spending a bit less on promoting local attractions and more on marketing material explaining the rules to Americans before they arrive.
“It almost goes back to those passport days, when that was the new thing required to enter Canada (for Americans). Now, we need to make sure that they know they need to be vaccinated in order to come. You know what we want is positive experiences and that starts right at the border.”
Ensuring Americans feel welcome is also important to tourism officials in London.
But unlike Sarnia-Lambton where U.S. visitors account for a high proportion of tourists, Americans account for only 10 per cent of overnight visitors in the Forest City.
Natalie Wakabayashi, a Tourism London director, supports a marketing change for Sarnia-Lambton. However, she wonders if evolving COVID-19 regulations at the border will make promotions challenging.
“You’re not the one dictating the rules and they’re ever-changing, so to stay on top of them is really difficult."
So, in London’s case, the city is looking to double-down on incentives, extending the ‘Stay a little longer’ campaign.
It provides those staying two nights at a hotel in London with a $100 Visa card to spend locally.
Tourism London has also turned to marketing students at Fanshawe College, asking them to study how to get more Americans to visit the in the coming months and after the pandemic.
For its part, Tourism Sarnia-Lambton has also used incentives aimed primarily at U.S. visitors.
But a coupon campaign is just one of the tools, Perrin argues, that is needed.
“We know that Windsor, London, Sarnia, we can put all our minds together and say, ‘How do we collectively attract people to each other areas?’”
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