International tour operators are signaling optimism that long-haul travel bookings should begin to ramp up with the easing of travel restrictions, they also note that the opportunities will be accompanied by a new set of customer expectations.
The annual Rendez-vous Canada (RVC) marketplace moved online this year, and brought nearly 500 international tour operators and travel buyers from 18 countries to Canada virtually last week for meetings with representatives from Canadian destinations, hotels and attractions. Hosted in partnership by Destination Canada and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, RVC facilitates thousands of timed appointments, enabling Canadian representatives to educate and update clients about experiences, products and services to incorporate into new and existing travel programs and packaged tours. It is also a valuable opportunity to learn from the clients key insights into travel and booking patterns in their markets and segments.
Many U.S. and European-based tour operators indicated that they’re rebooking 2021 spring/summer leisure travel bookings into the same time in 2022. That will help build a foundation of business for next year.
Some operators also expressed cautious optimism that, should Canada’s borders re-open later this year and restrictions lift, there may be an opportunity for late fall/winter international leisure business based on pent-up demand from customers.
Trade clients also shared insights into the consumer mindset, noting that consumers are seeking confidence in the travel companies they rely on to book long-haul travel. Above all, customers are seeking a much greater level of expertise and assurance from their travel professionals to understand the travel restrictions and requirements as well as health and safety protocols in the destination to be confident in their plans and avoid surprises.
At the same time, travellers are demanding greater flexibility in cancellation and amendment policies when booking. With such a high degree of uncertainty regarding shifting restrictions, that flexibility is vital for many travellers and gives them the confidence to make the travel purchase.
All of these new expectations of higher levels of destination knowledge and flexible purchase terms speak to a renewed relevance for the travel trade. Travel booked through tour operators and travel planners is already a key source of international travelers to Toronto, especially from markets like China, the U.K., Germany, Mexico and Japan.
This elevated role of tour operators and travel planners – as travellers navigate a return to long-haul travel – makes this sales channel even more important. Destination Toronto is continuing its collaboration with Destination Ontario and Destination Canada on trade partner sales and marketing opportunities in the second half of this year to drive future bookings from the travel trade.