Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Business education

Innovative ideas travel far: How to attract international tourists Add to ...

When it comes to popularity with international travellers, Canada definitely makes the top of the list. According to Statistics Canada, foreigners made 19.6 million overnight trips to this country in 2002. In the past 10 years alone, U.S. and overseas visitors have increased by 12 million to 18 million, and the numbers are rising.

More related to this story

Growth-minded SMBs in the tourism industry are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to take full advantage of this burgeoning market and to compete with global players. Here are just a few of the strategies that small and medium-sized businesses can consider to bolster their appeal overseas.

Think eco-tourism and adventure travel

Canada is emerging as a global destination for eco-tourism and adventure travel. The country is a natural draw for international visitors seeking authentic wilderness, adventure and cultural experiences. Canada has a reputation for its abundant and pristine wilderness resources, an image as an uncrowded and unspoiled holiday destination and a wide diversity of wildlife. As well, Canada's natural environment appeals to enthusiastic recreationists seeking an adrenaline experience – windsurfing, whitewater kayaking, ski mountaineering and rock climbing.

Whatever the nature of your tourism business, be sure that you're taking advantage of the eco-tourism and adventure travel opportunities in your area. Even if your business is urban-based, you'll appeal to foreign visitors simply by helping them find local eco-tourism activities. Here are a few of the exemplary practices in eco-tourism today:

  • Offering high-quality guiding and interpretative experiences that build your company's credibility.
  • Getting feedback from clients after the travel experience so you can adapt it accordingly.
  • Putting a sustainability plan in place if your business uses natural resources.

Give your website global reach

Forrester Research predicted that by 2005, only one-third of users of the Web will use English, so it's good business sense to make your website available in more than one language. Japanese would be a good choice for second language today. According to Statistics Canada, Japan is the second largest major overseas market for tourists in Canada next to Britain.

You can also benefit from customizing your website to your target market with simple visual aids such as country flags. In the end, you want to increase user confidence and comfort. Showing your prices in local currency can help you connect with international visitors and increase their ability to compare prices. It's important to provide international travellers with basic information on Canada, such as weather, currency, local customs and cuisine.

Make your business multi-seasonal

Any tourism operator knows that building an all-season capacity into your business drives growth and revenues. And this is particularly important to attract international visitors. According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of international travellers visiting Canada in 2002 was largely the same for each quarter, which means foreign visitors aren't limiting their vacations to summer.

If you're looking for ways to make your business an all-season affair, the first step is to assess the potential year-round activities in your area. Are there cultural activities, such as music festivals, that would attract visitors? Are there seasonal outdoor activities year round? You might consider adding a new dimension to your tourism business, such as offering spa services in the winter season. You could also team up with other local tourism businesses to share services and reduce your risk. Keep in mind as well that BDC offers its clients specialized financing to help entrepreneurs expand or acquire facilities and achieve international competitive standards.

It's a marketing rule of thumb: person-to-person contact can generate sales. And that's precisely what attracts thousands of tourism businesses and travellers to international trade shows. If you're shopping around for a trade show to exhibit your business, ensure that you choose one that gives you the best exposure and avoid untested venues. As well, prior to the show, be sure that your trade show team is properly trained to sell your business. There are numerous shows, associations and government organizations that can help you in the international arena, and here are just a few:

  • The Canadian Tourism Commission, a private and public-sector partnership dedicated to sustaining a viable and profitable tourism industry, has targeted marketing programs for Latin America, U.S. leisure travel, and Asia/Pacific travel.
  • Rendez-vous Canada is Canada's premier annual international tourism industry marketplace, bringing together selected international buyers and media to meet invited suppliers of Canadian tourism products, services and information.
  • Canada West Marketplace is the largest tourism trade show in Western Canada, bringing together B.C. and Alberta tourism suppliers with International tourism buyers in one location. It has an excellent track record, allowing tourism suppliers the opportunity to showcase their products to key decision makers from Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America.

For more help on business strategies to get your tourism business on the global market, you can also consult BDC Consulting Group.

Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeSmallBiz


In the know

Most popular video »


More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories