July 2007 Edition
Tracking Tourists

Tracking Tourists:Who's Traveling, and What They're Spending

 

By Patricia Nicholson

 

Every year, millions of tourists flock to Canada for beautiful scenery, outdoor adventure, cultural pursuits, and a tempting variety of food

and dining experiences. It's a lucrative market for many foodservice operators, with plenty of opportunities for growth.  .

 

Tourism spending in Canada increased during the first three months of 2007, the 15th consecutive quarterly increase. According to Statistics Canada's National Tourism Indicators, tourism brought in $66.9 billion in 2006. That's a 4.6% increase over 2005, and the third consecutive annual increase in the industry since SARS caused a dip in demand in 2003.

 

About 15% of all 2006 tourism spending-about $9.9 billion-went to food and beverage services. The accommodations and food and beverage services experienced the most growth among tourism

industries last year.

 

While the number of visitors from the U.S. has dipped, other international markets are on the upswing. The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) follows economic and non-economic factors that predict fluctuations in travel demand. These indicators show that the number of visitors from Asian and European markets-specifically China, Korea and France-will be growing, and so will

the number of Mexican tourists coming to Canada.

 

There has also been a surge in domestic tourism. Canadians traveling within Canada gave a real boost to the tourism statistics for 2006, and accounted for about three-quarters of total tourism spending. Spending by Canadian tourists jumped by 7.7% last year-the biggest increase since the late 1990s.

 

The latest Canadian Travel Intentions survey from the Canadian Tourism Research Institute shows that the number of Canadians planning a summer trip this year is higher than in the past two years. The survey, which was completed in March, indicates that 65% of Canadians planned to take a summer leisure trip. Last year, only 59.5% of people responding to the spring survey said

they were planning summer travel, and only 52.3% of respondents in 2005 were intending to travel.

 

The majority of those planning a trip indicated that they intend to spend their holidays here in Canada. In fact, the survey indicates that 43.1% of Canadians will be vacationing in Canada this summer-up from 41.8% last year and 36.5% the year before.

 

Although dining out plays a major role in many vacation plans, the number of travelers who are planning trips with a culinary focus is growing. Canadian culinary tourism can mean many things, depending on whether you?re in Acadia or Vancouver Island or somewhere in between. The lack of a defining "Canadian cuisine" poses both a challenge and an opportunity for marketing Canadian locations as culinary destinations.

 

Wine country tours are among the best known activities in this sector, but other culinary adventures include sampling Mennonite fare in Ontario, traveling Quebec's Cider Route, exploring artisan cheeses, and food and wine pairing adventures. The CTC includes festivals such as the Humber Valley Strawberry Festival in Newfoundland, regional cuisine showcases such as Taste of Nova Scotia, agricultural tours, and culinary packages in its broad definition of culinary tourism, and has published a how-to guide: The Culinary Tourism Product Development Guide. This publication is designed to help affected businesses make the most of tourism industry opportunities.

 

The CTC also uses a Travel Activities and Motivation Survey (TAMS) to collect data on different tourism market segments, including tourists interested in wine and culinary travel. These are travelers who stay at a cooking or wine-tasting school, or in accommodation with a fine restaurant on-premise, or do at least two related activities, such as winery visits or dining at noted restaurants, on their trip.

 

TAMS showed that 7 million wine and culinary enthusiasts-1.5 million Canadians and 5.5 million Americans­-had taken a recent leisure

trip in Canada. Tourists in this sector tend to be well-educated and fairly affluent. More than one-quarter of the Canadians and more than one-third of the Americans have a university degree, and they have the highest average income of any of the activity-based tourism sectors, including alpine skiing, adventure travel and performing and visual arts tourism. It is predominantly an adult sector: three-quarters

of these travelers currently have no children living with them at home. Women and men are fairly equally represented.

 

The good news is that we can expect more of these prosperous guests in the coming years. The CTC predicts that culinary tourism will grow by one-third in the next couple of decades. This is partly because of its favourable demographics: as the population ages, the proportion of the population that fits the profile for this sector will increase, giving culinary tourism a promising future in Canada.

 

            Who are Culinary Tourists?

                                                Canadian         American

 

            Women                              54%                48%

 

            Men                                   46%                52%

 

            Average age                       47                   48

 

            Average

            annual income                 $65,500           $76,600

 

            University 

            degree                                27%                37%

           Adult-only 
           households                          76%                78%