Visitors from outside Canada are smaller in number, but they tend to open their wallets much wider than their domestic counterparts during their stays in our province. That’s why Travel Manitoba holds an annual industry summit focused specifically on expanding this lucrative customer base.

One of the most pressing needs is better metrics to understand the success of our international marketing efforts. With this in mind, Travel Manitoba used the May 15 International Marketing Summit to seek feedback on the idea of an online survey that would gather information directly from tourism operators.

“Like most jurisdictions, we can’t draw many valid conclusions from Statistics Canada data because it’s always at least two years old and the overseas data for Manitoba is drawn from a very small sample size,” said Rick Gaunt, Senior Manager, Market Intelligence and Industry Relations. “That’s especially true if we try to drill down and look at the impact we’re having in individual countries or regions. We suspect we can get a much more timely and accurate sense of what’s happening by seeking direct feedback from the tourism businesses here.”

Summit participants were strongly supportive of the idea, and suggested ways to fine-tune the survey wording and protect the confidentiality of the information.

The group was also asked to comment on how Travel Manitoba’s resources are allocated – and whether marketing investments in Europe or the U.S. should be shifted toward other markets. A range of opinions were expressed, but none of the participants felt it would be wise to completely eliminate investment in either of these key markets.

Near the end of the day, participants were asked to share “guerrilla marketing” ideas for specific markets. A variety of ideas emerged, including promotions linked to the Jets, the 2017 Canada Summer Games, culinary tours and more.

The summit was also an opportunity for Travel Manitoba to update the group on these successes in international marketing:

  • Response to the new tourism brand has been excellent, with web traffic spiking on the day the new ads were uploaded. The new brand created the opportunity to partner with the Canadian Tourism Commission on four international marketing events.
  • Media outreach in 2013/14 generated millions of dollars of exposure, including 425 articles in markets as far away as Germany, Australia and Brazil.
  • The 2013/14 Travel Trade program included visits to six countries, with more than 300 sales appointments.
  • The number of visitors from the UK, the largest source of European travellers, is continuing to grow.
  • International traffic to the Travel Manitoba website increased 25 per cent last year. There were more page visits and the number of bounces decreased by 30 per cent.
  • A National Geographic campaign focused on the “Everything Churchill” website generated strong traffic from the United Kingdom and Germany.

Looking ahead, Travel Manitoba reported that:

  • French-speaking staff of Manitoba’s UK agent will do additional outreach in France.
  • Four UK media and a French journalist are slated to visit Manitoba this year.
  • The Go Media Marketplace will bring up to 150 journalists to Winnipeg for two days this August.

Overall, summit participants agreed that Manitoba’s new “Canada’s Heart Beats” tourism brand has created outstanding marketing opportunities. They said the challenge now is to make the most of the new brand as we reach out to U.S. and overseas travellers.

The five-hour discussion was facilitated and recorded by Probe Research. Read Probe’s full report.