With the return to both the U.S. and Central Canada after a lengthy absence, Travel Manitoba set out to better understand these markets and to benchmark both regions to bolster planning and provide a reference point to determine the campaigns’ effectiveness.

Travel Manitoba created the survey and engaged Probe Research to conduct the online surveys with 1,000 people in North Dakota and the Twin Cities, as well as 800 people in the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal. A similar survey will be completed in the fall.

North Dakota/Twin Cities
The Manitoba tourism product is seen as a niche product as opposed to a mass-market product in both the North Dakota and Minneapolis/St. Paul markets. In North Dakota, Manitoba’s competitive advantage is largely urban, while our competitive advantage in the Twin Cities is “outdoors paradise”.

Younger adults were more strongly drawn toward the outdoors aspects of a Manitoba vacation, while older adults were drawn more toward the urban aspects. As with many other jurisdictions, results showed that those who have visited Manitoba at least once before are significantly more likely to return than are those who have never visited.

The survey showed mixed views about Manitoba as a value-for-money tourism proposition, with most responses being in the good-to-fair range, despite the vast majority being aware of a difference in value between the Canadian and American dollars.

Most respondents perceived the international border as being neither a strong motivator nor deterrent to visiting Manitoba, although a larger percentage of respondents naturally saw it as a deterrent, particularly in North Dakota. Interestingly, however, younger adults were more likely than average to perceive crossing the international border as being an attractive task, suggesting the possibility that “foreign” could have some appeal to this subgroup.

Current Market “Recall
Some Manitoba promotion was recalled, reaching about one-quarter of North Dakota respondents and one-in-ten Minneapolis/St. Paul respondents. Promotions were most likely to reach the greatest number in the form of television, print and online advertising, with print skewing toward older audiences and online skewing toward younger audiences.

Media Habits
There is a larger potential TV audience during the evening hours – daytime viewing tends to be much lower – and of course different segments require advertising during different types of programs: younger -  comedy; older/previous visitors - news and current affairs; male - sports; female - drama and movies.

As might be expected, social media is more likely to be effective reaching younger audiences and Facebook’s daily audience tends to skew disproportionately female.

Historically, Manitoba has not been a travel destination for most Canadians living in the GTA and Montreal (particularly Francophones) for many years. While the responses indicated that fewer than 10 percent of people in Montreal or Toronto intend to visit Manitoba in 2016, targeting this market will take advantage of the simple economics of the two regions: the combined populations of the GTA (6 million) and Montreal (4 million) offer 10 million domestic travellers within a two-to-three-hour flying time, many with the income and propensity for experiential travel. And our marketing in central Canada can focus on Manitoba’s experiences rather than on education about Manitoba’s geographic location, as is the case for international markets.

We have a lot of catching up to do – while 13% had seen some form of Manitoba specific tourism advertising, fully 87% had either not seen, or were unsure of seeing any Manitoba advertising.  Interestingly, francophone Montrealers were far less likely to associate Manitoba with outdoor activities such as wildlife and bird watching, fishing, camping, etc. than the remaining urban easterners.

Viewing habits are similar to our US targets; evening hours are more popular than daytime hours, and the male/female viewing skew remains. Social media is more likely to be effective at reaching younger audiences - daily use of Facebook and Twitter among 18-34 year olds was particularly high. In addition to the age skew, Facebookers in our survey were disproportionately female and Francophone Montrealers.

Further updates on these markets and the results of Travel Manitoba's marketing efforts will be made available in the coming months.