Passport Regulations and High Gas Prices Aren't Stopping Summer Travel, According to Industry Panel



    Best Western International, HAC, TIAC and Aeroplan Officials Offer Summer
Travel Snapshot, Suggestions for Continued Industry Growth

    TORONTO, August 2 /CNW/ - New passport regulations, gas prices and the
rising strength of Canadian currency versus the U.S. dollar were identified as
challenges to Canadian tourism by experts from Best Western International, the
Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), the Hotel Association of Canada
(HAC) and Aeroplan during the third annual travel expert roundtable held last
week. Despite these challenges, however, the country's overall economic
strength is contributing to a successful summer for the travel industry.

    "It's a mixed bag situation in Canada right now. Border states and cities
are suffering from a lack of inbound travellers from the United States by
car," said Christopher Jones, vice president of public affairs for TIAC. "But
the future looks good, especially if we diversify our destination offerings as
a country." In response, TIAC has partnered with Deloitte in the Destination
Canada research initiative to identify ways to attract U.S. travellers.

    The summer of 2007 has been strong for the world's largest hotel chain.
"Best Western is appreciating its third consecutive record-setting year in
Canada," said Dorothy Dowling, the company's senior vice president of
marketing and sales. "Room nights and net reservations were up 15 percent in
June."

    This coincides with the hotel industry as a whole, according to HAC. The
country's nearly $18 billion-a-year industry saw overall occupancies go up by
one percentage point. RevPar, a ratio used to measure a hotel's financial
performance, rose between three and four dollars in 2006.

    "As long as hotels keep their standards up and offer travellers what they
are looking for, we will get through external challenges," said HAC President
Anthony Pollard.

    Other hot issues that were identified by the panel included:

    The importance of loyalty and partnership programs. "The average Canadian
has more than five loyalty cards in his or her wallet," said Sylvie Bourget,
vice president of marketing for Aeroplan, the country's leading rewards
program.

    Satisfying these repeat customers is critical because "loyalty programs
are the third most important amenity for Best Western guests, behind
high-speed Internet access and breakfast," said Dowling. Best Western's Gold
Crown Club International rewards program has set itself apart from other
hotels' clubs by offering co-branded affinity programs that cater to specific
lifestyle demographics such as NASCAR fans, Canadian Automobile Association
members, and Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.

    The Internet's increased impact on travel. "Hotels must capitalize on the
Internet's increasing influence by updating their Web sites two or three times
daily and providing relevant information on amenities, features and current
events in the area," said Pollard.

    "Blogging, Internet and travel Web sites are the new version of
word-of-mouth," said Bourget. Sixty percent of Aeroplan's bookings occur
online.

    For Best Western, nearly 40 percent of central reservation system revenue
in North America is a result of bookings through bestwestern.com. "The
Internet has transformed our business from five years ago and is now the most
important reservations and communications channel for us," said Dowling.

    Potential in developing markets. Visitors from China have increased by 40
percent year over year and travellers continue to arrive in tours and groups.

    "The potential for growth from China is immense. But the question for all
of us is, Is our travel product ready to provide what travellers from China
are seeking?" said Jones. "This market will never surpass the number of
visitors from the United States, but it still represents an excellent
opportunity for Canada."

    Combating Canadian stereotypes. TIAC recognizes that a shift in the
perceptions of Canada must occur, which will require an increased marketing
investment targeted at the country's key inbound travel markets. Jones
emphasized that Canada's story needs to be told more effectively. "We risk
being bland. We need to broaden the understanding of our product beyond moose
and maple syrup to the many unique and exotic product offerings Canada has,"
he said.

    With the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the outlook for
summer 2007 and beyond is positive. The Canadian Tourism Commission's "Brand
Canada" campaign is hoping to leverage a people-centric message, putting a
face on the country to draw more travellers from around the world.

    ABOUT BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL

    Best Western International is THE WORLD'S LARGEST HOTEL CHAIN(R),
providing marketing, reservations and operational support to 4,200
independently owned and operated member hotels in 80 countries and territories
worldwide. Founded in 1946, this iconic brand is host to approximately 400,000
worldwide guests each night. A pioneer within the industry, Best Western is
recognized for its distinctive member-owned business model and diverse hotel
portfolio. The company continues to innovate and enhance both the business and
leisure travel experience. For more information or to make a reservation,
please visit www.bestwestern.com.

    ABOUT HAC

    The Hotel Association of Canada advocates on behalf of the industry to
build a favourable business climate and influence policies for success:
offering cost-effective, innovative marketing programs and celebrating
excellence through an annual conference. HAC members are an important part of
the network that is 8,287 strong and encompasses Hotel Companies, hotels,
resorts, provincial and international lodging associations, industry
suppliers, and educators. For more information, visit www.hotelassociation.ca.

    ABOUT TIAC

    Founded in 1930 to encourage the development of tourism in Canada, TIAC
serves as the national private-sector advocate for this $66.9 billion
industry, representing the interests of the tourism business community
nationwide. It successfully influences government thinking and action on
behalf of Canadian tourism businesses, promoting positive measures that help
the industry grow and prosper. TIAC's membership reflects partnerships among
all sectors of the industry, and provincial, territorial and regional tourism
associations, enabling the association to address the full range of issues
facing Canadian tourism -- forcefully and effectively. Its activities focus on
legislative and regulatory barriers to the growth of Canadian tourism.

    ABOUT AEROPLAN

    Aeroplan is Canada's premier loyalty marketing company, dedicated to
developing and executing programs designed to engage the loyalty of its
prestigious membership. Aeroplan's millions of members earn Aeroplan Miles
with its network of more than 60 world-class partners, representing more than
100 brands in the financial, retail, and travel sectors. Miles earned may be
redeemed for Aeroplan's industry-leading programs offering travel to more than
850 destinations worldwide. Aeroplan's roster of non-flight rewards includes
more than 400 exciting specialty, merchandise, and experiential rewards, as
well as hotel and car rental rewards. For more information about Aeroplan,
please visit www.aeroplan.com.

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For further information:

For further information: Best Western International Heather Koncijla,
602-957-5752 heather.koncijla@bestwestern.com or Allison & Partners Lauren
Eastman, 415-277-4916 lauren@allisonpr.com

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Best Western International, Inc.

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