Thanks to additional funding through Plan 96/4, we were able to return to consumer advertising in the United States, both through a partnership program with Destination Canada and through our own campaign targeted on upper Midwest markets.
“We really ramped up our marketing efforts in the US this summer”, said Colin Ferguson, President and CEO of Travel Manitoba, “and it seems to be paying off. Add to that the strength or our tourism attractions like Assiniboine Park Conservancy, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, our world class fishing, and a growing calendar of festivals, and it’s a pretty powerful combination.”
There are several indicators of success for our efforts in these markets, including Manitoba welcoming more visitors from the U.S. this past summer. Even as we saw huge numbers of Americans crossing the border in 2015 for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, data from the Canadian Border Services Agency tells us that US visitation to Manitoba was up 3% in July, buoyed by the strength of the province’s increased marketing efforts and growing awareness of the tourism experiences offered here.
We have measured our campaign performance in these U.S. markets, and in comparison to our benchmark survey in April, the results are impressive. Overall awareness of Manitoba tourism ads in general is up from 28% in April to 42% in September, with the primary sources of Manitoba tourism identified as TV and print, followed by online and social media.
Fishing and wildlife viewing were ranked as the most salient tourism opportunities for Manitoba. Clearly outdoor adventure experiences continue to resonate as important assets. There is still tremendous opportunity for urban experiences with Arts and Culture, Shopping and Entertainment all being rated above 25% in importance.
Recall of our Manitoba Canada’s Heart…Beats ads was very low at the beginning of the campaign. However, 62% of respondents indicated that their opinion of Manitoba as a travel destination improved after seeing the TV commercials. Forty-two percent indicated that the TV spots influenced their desire to seek out more information on Manitoba tourism. Almost 90% of respondents who saw the ad and who have visited Manitoba said the ads played a role in their decision to visit the province and 56% who saw the ad but were not intending to visit said it influenced them to look for more information on Manitoba.
An important message for us was to communicate the value of the currency between the US and Canada, and after running the campaign, the perceptions of the value of Manitoba tourism experiences increased, as 11% of respondents upgraded their rating from good to excellent.
We have also seen some encouraging results from our expanded Canadian campaign. This summer, in addition to our focus on the always-important Manitoba market and our efforts in the drive-to Canadian markets, we also dedicated $150,000 to each of the Toronto and Montreal markets, exclusive of our Air Canada and national TV buys for Grey Cup.
Overall awareness of the Manitoba Canada’s Heart Beats slogan has doubled from 7% to 14% in the Toronto and Montreal markets. It’s interesting to note the campaign is having a stronger impact in Montreal where awareness has increased by 18%.
After the campaign, 65% said their opinion of Manitoba improved after watching the TV commercials. Overall, 40% say the commercials encouraged them to seek out more information on tourism in Manitoba.
And among the small number who saw the ad and will visit Manitoba, 96% said the TV commercial played a role in their decision to visit Manitoba. Among the small number who saw the ad and indicated that they don’t intend to visit Manitoba, 56% said the commercials played a role in encouraging them to look up information on Manitoba tourism.
“Tourism is a $1.6 billion dollar industry in Manitoba and an important economic driver for our province,” said Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen. “We believe that the time is right to continue to build our visitor economy. Our government has made investments, we’re listening to Manitobans’ ideas for growth and innovation and we look forward to helping create the conditions that will strengthen local businesses and communities.”
These are extremely positive and we will look to build on them in our marketing plan for 2017.