Destination Research

We are now providing monthly research reports that capture the most current and relevant information within the travel and tourism industry. These reports offer a consolidation of existing travel data, visitor trends, and what to consider when looking into the future. As we continue to adapt, it is important to stay informed and guide our decisions based on what the research suggests. Happy reading!

Last updated on May 4th, 2021.

Stone – Olafson: New Experience Economy (Phase 5)

Comfort and Behaviour

Surveys for Phase 5 of the New Experience Economy research took place between March and April. In that time, case numbers were growing, but businesses were still open. As the results were released, another lock down has been implemented. This means that some of this information is potentially dated; however, this research shows trends in behaviour based on the current environment of the province. That is, people are becoming more predicable depending on case numbers and restrictions.

Most Albertans are not completely averse to risk but are more contemplative when looking for or performing activities. Interestingly October 2020 and March 2021, both instances without significant lock down but a high rise in cases, showed higher levels of risk tolerance. December of 2020, a time with strict lockdown procedures in place but a drop in cases, show a lower tolerance for risk.

78% of Albertans have changed their habits due to the pandemic and 45% of the population claims that their interests have changed. Generally, people are trying to make the best of a bad situation by adapting to their environment. However, the reason for these behavioural changes is because of the restrictions or business closures in place. This suggests these changes in behaviour could be temporary.

In fact, 84% of Albertans “cannot wait to rediscover the events and activities in their city”; and 71% believe their “life is simply on pause”, once again suggesting this is a temporary shift in behaviour.

Willingness to Pay

Due to the uncertainty of live events, activities, and services many people are feeling uneasy about cancellation and refund policies. 32% are willing to purchase gift cards to be used later, and 27% are wiling to pay in advance. But 46% of people are only comfortable paying for an experience that they know will go ahead. This puts organizations in a difficult position due to the volatility of the pandemic. Robust refund policies and clear messaging could be one way to keep minds at ease during the purchase process. It should also be noted that those in a younger demographic (under 35) are typically more willing to pay for an activity or service in advance over those in older generations.

As many organizations pivot to an online offering, or hybrid event, the public is largely unsure of their own expectations with only 6% willing to pay full price for an online event. 52% claim that paying full price would depend on what is being offered, with the balance (42%) either expecting a discount or not willing to pay at all for an online offering. This is because, generally, people believe a virtual experience does not have the same value as an in-person experience.

Tourism Industry Association of Canada: Industry Dashboard – April 2021

Health Impact

As of May 3rd, 1,336,877 Canadians are fully vaccinated (3% of the population). In Alberta, 301,398 people are fully vaccinated (7.5% of the population). Vaccines are considered one of the most effective ways of maintaining the spread of covid along with social distancing and wearing an appropriate mask.

Focus Case Study – Vaccine and Travel

Currently, proof of vaccination is not required to travel. Whether or not this will be a stipulation is still undetermined. The World Heath Organization has spoken out against the idea of a vaccine certificate as vaccines are not available equally across the world, thus creating an have/have not scenario; however, certain countries like Iceland are allowing Americans and the European Union to cross borders with minimal restriction who present recent health data. It is likely that other countries will follow suit in coming months. British Airways flights from London to India are trialing a similar concept as the vaccine passport apps, such as CommonPass and the IATA Travel Pass with their passengers, where they are to provide health data much like they would while entering their passport information.

Focus Case Study – Tourism is the Heartbeat of Canada

Due to the original $30 million dollar investment from the federal government to promote local travel, hotel occupancy has increased, but revenue per available room dropped as hotels focus on filling rooms. Destination Canada is implementing strategies to help Canadians become aware of the role they play in our economic recovery. With one in every 10 jobs in Canada associated with tourism, the industry is being positioned as “The Heartbeat of Canada”, hoping to shift two-thirds of the Canadian international leisure market to domestic travel. Doing so would balance the $19 billion dollar deficit accumulated during the pandemic.

Travel Behaviours

Public support remains for travel restrictions, however, the health, economic and social effects experienced by the public are proving more and more frustrating. Due to this increased loss of freedom and decreased quality of life, people are becoming more comfortable with the risks of COVID. This increased tolerance to risk has potential to disrupt ongoing pressure to maintain safety protocols.

56% of Canadian said they would travel internationally within a year, and 81% said they would travel international after a year, which may put pressure on Canadian DMO’s to promote domestic travel.