Why does a country need a brand? A tourism brand is the imagination and emotion a country inspires in visitors. A set of beliefs and associations they hold about a place. A tourism brand is a promise of what to expect when you visit.
In the past, when we asked travellers what they thought about Canada, the answer was that it was not so much a country as a vast place with big nature and friendly people. But this idea barely scratched the surface of the Canada we knew.
In 2004, we set out to change this outdated idea of Canada. Going back to this country's roots, we put our stake in the ground. We aren't a specialty destination for sun-worshippers who wanted to lie on the beach for a week. We're a country built by—and for—explorers. We attract travellers who want the freedom to express themselves through travel. If Canada is an adventure story, our hero is the curious traveller who thrives on surprising, unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary experiences.
Forget postcard predictability. Canada has travel experiences that surprise at every turn. We're a natural place where you can talk trout with a Newfoundland fisherman, saddle up with real cowboys for a trail ride along the jagged ridgelines of a soaring Rocky Mountain range and feel the spray as an orca pod blows off steam while cruising along Vancouver Island's west coast. We're also an urban world where you can sip wine at one of the fabulous terraces in Montréal, QC, before wading into the stylish nightlife at a retro-chic dance club. Our promise is a life less ordinary.
And that friendly reputation? Well, we decided to show off the real face of Canada: authentic, witty, informal and, yes, friendly. We launched the new brand around the tagline, "Canada. Keep exploring." In words, pictures, social media, video, blogs and more, we set out to communicate this consistent and compelling image of Canada to the world.
One brand. One voice. One extraordinary vision.
The more we do to align Canada's tourism brand and marketing initiatives in our 11 geographic markets, the stronger our voice is in the competitive international marketplace. The aim is to inspire domestic and international visitors alike to explore Canada, focusing on the extraordinary experiences this country has to offer.
The CTC and partners exist to promote Canada's extraordinary experiences; ones that engage all the senses and let travellers create personal stories. That's why we call Canada's tourism brand an experience-based brand. We've also identified five Unique Selling Propositions that differentiate Canada as a must-see travel destination and back our promise of a life less ordinary.
Leveraging Canada's tourism brand to build your bottom line.
Download our brand toolkits, designed to help Canada's 178,000-plus tourism-related small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) leverage the successful "Canada. Keep exploring" brand.
So how are we doing with Canada's tourism brand?
Canada was ranked first as the world's most respected country brand in 2010. The ranking came from the Country Brand Index by FutureBrand of New York, NY, a global branding firm that ranks countries across 30 distinct categories.
The influential Lonely Planet guide named Canada as one of the "Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2009."CTC was named Marketer of the Year in 2009 by Marketing magazine for our groundbreaking social-media strategy.
What truly sets Canada apart as a travel destination? We've identified five Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) that showcase the experiences that make Canada unique. Some of the experiences can be found elsewhere, but what makes these five USPs special is how they happen here in Canada. If you operate a tourism-related business, understanding and incorporating one or more of these USPs into your travel experience will help align your business with Canada's tourism brand and set you apart from the competition.
Canada's five USPs with a focus on how they benefit travellers:
1.Vibrant cities on the edge of nature
Canadian cities are all about the urban buzz. Like French-flavour city centres Montréal and Québec City: chic and distinct, places where history and architecture mingle with the buzz of modern life. Or coastal cities like Vancouver, laid-back yet culturally trendy, and Victoria, charming, gracious and old-world elegant. Then there's Halifax, NS: hip, youthful and always entertaining. These are all places where you can explore museums, galleries and nightclubs, plus enjoy world-class cuisine and theatre without missing a beat.
But look again and you'll also find plenty of breathing room—a wealth of natural beauty and green space to go with those urban rhythms. You can spend the day ocean kayaking, then savour gourmet dining at night. You can tour a world-famous museum, then step out for a stroll along a spectacular harbour.Nature is more than a backdrop in Canadian cities. It's a symbol of freedom—the freedom to explore and be yourself. Think Canada's got edge? You bet it does..
2. Personal journeys by land, water and air
Touring Canada means more than getting from point A to B. It's about discovery, surprise, landscapes and waterways of unimaginable beauty, about a journey that brings you back to yourself. After all, Canada is a land built for explorers.
You can hop aboard a luxury railcar and cross the country, grinning as you climb through the magnificent Rockies. Or take a floatplane from downtown Vancouver, BC, to an award-winning coastal fishing lodge where martinis are waiting. Or drift in a sailboat along the world's longest coastline, spotting sea lions and orcas in your wake. You can drive Newfoundland's wind-raked Viking Trail to reach the earliest-known European settlement in the New World. Or cruise Cape Breton's Cabot Trail to check out Acadian fishing ports, pristine valleys and some of the most picturesque coastline anywhere.Wander, trek, voyage or glide—getting around Canada is half the fun. You might even say it's the tour of a lifetime.
3. Active adventure among awe-inspiring natural wonders
Once upon a time, Canada was considered a vast, remote, even forbidding, wilderness. To get out and be active in our wondrous nature, you had to suffer the elements or sacrifice comfort. But that was around the 18th century. Today, you're the hero of your own adventure story in Canada. And the story couldn't be more inspiring.
No matter how you like to explore Canada's dramatic natural wonders, from heli-skiing in BC to an easy hike through an alpine meadow, awe and inspiration are within easy reach.
Sit mesmerized by the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) from the comfort of a hot tub. Get soaked by Niagara Falls or experience a private wine-tasting tour at a nearby Ontario winery. Watch polar bears prowl the shores of Hudson Bay near Churchill, MB, then fly back to Winnipeg for an afternoon soak in a Turkish-themed spa.
Natural wonders are abundant in Canada—and so are the ways to enjoy them.
4. Award-winning Canadian local cuisine
Put scenic landscapes and a love of food together and you get the ingredients for a sumptuous experience of taste and touch. Capturing the flavour of a place is as easy as offering unique, locally sourced ingredients, a taste of ethnic fusion, a return to natural freshness and sharing the bounty of low-intensity farming. Add friendly people, charming settings and you've got a savory dining experience that captures the essence of Canadian cuisine.
Sample the inventive menus of world-renowned chef Susur Lee in his two Toronto, ON, restaurants. Or visit a microbrewery in Quebec for a craft beer. Try world-renowned Asian fusion restaurants in Vancouver. Feel the connection between sea, soil and plate at a country inn in Nova Scotia where the local, organic menu is prepared in the Slow Food tradition of following the seasons to connect place, pleasure and food. Dining locally in the high Rockies can mean the best of surf (roasted wild Pacific salmon) and turf (bison strip loin). Shuck your own world-famous Malpeque oysters on Prince Edward Island, then have them served like the locals enjoy them, with a squeeze of lemon and freshly ground black pepper.
From farm to table in Canada, there are food movements in the making: slow food, terroir and the 100 Mile Diet.When travellers get a true taste of a region's soil and soul, the memory lingers long after they wipe their plates.
5. Connecting with Canadians
Witty, fun, approachable, authentic—that's how travellers come to describe the cast of characters they meet across Canada. There's no better way to get immersed in a place than to get a feel for the people.
You can meet a friendly Maritime fisherman on the docks of Lunenberg, NS. Share stories with a local at the Yukon International Storytelling Festival. Learn the traditional life of the Great Plains people at Alberta's famous buffalo jump. Meet a third-generation cheesemaker along La Route des fromages in Quebec.
Getting a first-hand experience of Canadian culture helps travellers understand where our country comes from and where it's heading. Welcoming travellers with open arms gives them the sense of connection they crave—and those authentic, meaningful moments keep them coming back.
The CTC showcases travel experiences that truly differentiate Canada from other tourism destinations. What makes a tourism experience extraordinary? Is it meeting our legendary people? Discovering our hidden cultural gems? Exploring our natural wonders?
It's not one thing at all. We find it's the way an experience inspires travellers to engage with culture, people and geography together in a meaningful way. The true nature of great Canadian travel experiences is about the possibilities created when you find yourself immersed among natural beauty, among warm and welcoming people and interacting with diverse cultures from around the world.
Think your tourism experience is ready for the world?
Download the Experiences toolkit to turn your tourism products into experiences that travellers will keep talking about. You can also contact your provincial or territorial marketing organization to learn more about marketing and sales opportunities in your area. Or consider applying to become part of the CTC’s Signature Experiences Collection®. If you've got a market-ready experience you want to share, or want to learn more about CTC's experience-based marketing, please contact us.
Here are three examples of tourism businesses that capture a memorable travel experience:
Visitors want the chance to immerse themselves in the cultural community.
CapeRace Cultural Adventures is a travel outfitter in Newfoundland that invites its clients to literally rub elbows with the locals. Guests enjoy 10- and 13-day trips to the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas on self-guided tours that include stays at historic houses (imagine having a lobster trap for a lamp stand). But that's not all. CapeRace provides local connections in each village ready to help you catch a cod, discover the local lore and find the perfect watering hole to try out a tumbler of screech over iceberg ice. Don't be surprised if you end up tapping your feet at a spontaneous "kitchen party." CapeRace journeys are authentic, memorable, and even transformative—you won’t find an experience quite like this anywhere else.
Travellers who engage with the local life and personalities feel a more powerful connection to place.
Let's say you own a B&B on Prince Edward Island. You could continue to serve Eggs Bennie every day, adding a touch of Anne of Green Gables to your table. Or you could do what Bill and Mary Kendrick did. They began offering guests a chance to shuck oysters, to paint seascapes on the beach with a local pro and to carve funky folk art. As the proprietors of the Briarcliffe Inn, the Kendricks began brokering partnerships with other islanders, resulting in today's 28 unique "experiences," which form the basis of their company, Experience PEI. Each of the Kendricks' experiences forges emotional connections—with other Canadians, with fellow travellers and with Canada’s geography.
Guide travellers to magnificent and unexpected landscapes, then let them blaze their own trails.
Nimmo Bay Resort specializes in providing high-end wilderness tourism experiences throughout the central coast of British Columbia and northern Vancouver Island. Given their award-winning reputation, guests arrive with high expectations. The folks at Nimmo Bay never let them down. They guide visitors to remote adventures—be it heli-fishing for coho salmon on isolated fishing waters or river rafting followed by a blissful day of alpine swimming. These are special places only locals know—pristine areas that aren't already teeming with tourists. When guests return, the service is personalized and warm; after an indulgent soak in the waterfall hot tub, guests dine on fresh, local seafood served with a trademark west-coast smile.
Memorable moments come in all sizes
It doesn't matter how big or small a player you are. What matters is that you're unique and that you value the power of an experience.A product is what people buy. An experience is what they remember.
Visitors who fully engage their senses, make a strong emotional connection to their travel experience and feel as if they've enjoyed a personal exploration are more likely to be satisfied and inspired. This is precisely how extraordinary memories are made—and a step-by-step guide to creating those memories is exactly what you'll find in the Experiences Toolkit.
Experiential tourism training videos
The CTC partnered with the Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism to produce two experiential-tourism training videos to showcase examples of how small businesses in the Atlantic provinces have developed experiences for travellers. These training videos provide insights into what a tourism experience is, how to develop experiences to fulfill the dreams of visitors when they travel and how to connect travellers with your local cultural assets to enhance the visitor experience. See for yourself:
Fulfilling travellers' dreams through experiences
Connecting Travellers to Culture, Community and Cuisine
Ever wonder why two different travellers standing in the very same place can have a completely experience? We did.
At the CTC, our job is to learn everything we can about travellers to Canada. So we went beyond traditional market research to find out exactly why people travel, and why different traveller types are attracted to entirely different travel experiences. We found that factors such as age and income were much less important in determining why and where people travel than personality, values, attitudes and interests.
The result of years of study is the Explorer Quotient® (EQ), an award-winning marketing tool that uses an online quiz to reveal the values and motivations behind travel decisions. The results divide travellers into nine "Explorer Types," from Free Spirit to Cultural Explorer to Authentic Experiencer.
The power of EQ will help you find and keep your best customer
Knowing who your customers are and what kind of experience they're after will help you attract your best customers and make the most of your tourism experience. Take the guided tour now to find out how EQ can improve your bottom line.
Small and medium enterprises: Download your free EQ Toolkit now
Get started today by downloading the EQ toolkit to harness the power of EQ and serve up experiences that travellers are most likely to buy.