Diane Clarkson [Posted by Diane Clarkson]

I had the opportunity to attend Canada e-Connect last week in Toronto. This is Canada’s e-Tourism Strategy Conference presented by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. Mobile marketing and social media were two of the most popular topics both on the agenda and in conversations among delegates.

Certainly the most repeated conversation I had was about how the economic environment in the US will impact Canadian tourism. Beneath gloomy economy clouds, there may be some optimism for Canadian tourism with the possibility of Americans heading above the 49th parallel to seek the beauty of the Great White North and its’ favourable exchange rate.

American travelers will not, however, be a "if you build it, they will come" situation. Canadian destination marketing organizations should consider the following to attract American travelers:

1. We found last year that 15% of US travelers began their online research without a clear destination in mind. To reach these undecided travelers, travel marketers should incorporate lifestyle segments (i.e. family, gay and lesbian) as well as activities (i.e. skiing, theater) into search marketing and optimization strategies.

2. Mapping and destination content should be developed with the personas of online travel researchers who have are familiar with the area as well as those with no knowledge of the area’s geography.

3. Photographs are extremely inspirational and should appeal to lifestyle segments (i.e. include seniors, families, etc) and travel planning cycles. Specifically,  photo selection should reflect that travelers plan ahead: photographs of snow today will not inspire people dreaming of sun in a few months.

4. Microsites aimed directly at American travelers will allow targeted content that can include topics such as driving distance from US cities, visa and border information, etc.

One theme from Canada e-Connect is certain: the Internet has never been a more important channel to the tourism industry on both sides of the border.