Rendez-vous Canada (RVC) returned to Toronto from May 24 to 27, 2022, bringing international travel buyers to the city for appointments with destinations, tourism operators and travel trade media. Hosted in partnership by Destination Canada and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, RVC facilitated more than 48,000 timed appointments, enabling Canadian tourism representatives to educate and update buyers about experiences, products and services to incorporate into new and existing travel programs and packaged tours.
Terminal editor Kathy Motton spoke with Roseanne Longo, Vice President, Global Travel Trade at Destination Toronto, about the key takeaways and learnings from RVC, which marked the return of international meetings and the beginning of recovery for the travel industry.
Was there an overarching theme or overall takeaway from the attendees?
FIT (flexible independent travel) bookings, tailor made, and small groups of multi-generational travel with family are seeing predominance currently. Visitors are booking longer stays and are spending more per trip. Customers are seeking a much greater level of expertise and assurance from their travel professionals to understand travel restrictions and requirements, as well as health and safety protocols in the destinations. They want more customization and higher levels of service. These expectations of deeper destination knowledge speak to the renewed relevance for the travel trade.
What did you learn about recovery for our businesses?
There were quite a few lessons on recovery. There is pent up demand for leisure travel. Many operators from the U.K., Germany, France, Mexico and Brazil reported 2022 bookings close to 80-85% of 2019 levels. Some are at 2019 levels! What has changed is they are looking at shorter booking windows for near-term travel, approximately 4-6 weeks versus 6 -18 months before the pandemic. Some operators are also seeing new bookings into 2023 and seeking 2023 rates from suppliers now.
Tour operators stressed the need for continued flexible booking conditions – consumers are looking for this and are hesitant to book without flexibility due to the “start/stop” nature of the past couple of years. Car and motorhome rental inventory is impacting FIT and fly/drive programs and labor shortages are also impacting service levels. Some operators have reduced staffing and/or are facing challenges connecting with suppliers due to staffing levels at the supplier end. Because of this, tour operators are looking to Canadian-based receptives to source and book products. It’s important for suppliers to work with receptives and be included in their tariffs. Receptive tour operators remain an important part of the distribution process.
Who attended / who didn't attend and what does that tell us?
There was strong attendance from the U.K., Germany, and France, as well as Mexico and Brazil, along with Domestic and U.S. buyers. In-person attendance from Japan, Korea and China was limited, with clients from those markets predominately participating virtually due to outbound travel restrictions or slower market recovery at this time. The Asian markets are not pacing as quickly as the other markets and operators noted that air ticket fuel surcharges are an additional concern in their recovery.
As RVC was hosted in Toronto, what feedback did we hear about their experience?
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! Many clients commented that they could feel the vibrancy that had returned to the city. They loved the walkability of downtown, with attractions, restaurants, shopping and hotels all within easy proximity. They felt safe and were impressed with the amount of new developments throughout Toronto – although some also commented on traffic congestion!
I have a fun story to share on how one Torontonian welcomed a meeting attendee. A tour operator from Mexico went to Tim Horton’s and his credit card was declined. He opted to call his bank and the cashier told him not to worry – it was on Tim’s! He didn’t feel comfortable with this, but they insisted he could have his order and come back the next day to pay if he felt he must. He was floored by the gesture and said it really exemplified his experience with Canadians. Toronto is clearly keen to welcome the world back to our great city!