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International tourism: Canada needs strategy to win back market share - Now is the time for the government to show leadership, Jean-Marc Eustache, President and CEO of Transat A.T. Inc., tells Economic Club of Toronto<
In a speech delivered today to the Economic Club of Toronto, Jean-Marc Eustache, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transat A.T. Inc., one of the largest tour operators in the world and the number one incoming tour operator in Canada, asked all governments, but particularly Ottawa, to show leadership in developing an international tourism strategy.
“The global tourism market is growing steadily, but Canada stands apart, with declining numbers of visitors,” Mr. Eustache said. “Two million Canadians have tourism-related jobs, in thousands of companies and institutions that span the hospitality, transportation and tourist attraction sectors. That number could grow to 2.5 million in the coming years... or it could decline, depending on the future moves we make.”
Until 2004, Canada was in the top-10 destinations worldwide. But the numbers are now slipping, in large part due to fewer Americans visiting the country, while virtually all other countries record increases in visitors. “Americans have turned their attention to other destinations, in part due to the exchange rate, gasoline prices, new passport rules... but also because Canada doesn’t seem to click with them anymore,” Mr. Eustache said. More than 16 million Americans made an overnight trip to Canada in 2002, compared with less than 14 million in 2006, he noted.
Mr. Eustache stressed the importance of leadership: “Governments—all of them, but mainly Ottawa—have critical roles to play, because a large number of issues need to fit together. Tourism is about the protection of sites and landscapes. It’s about culture, heritage, institutions, food and hospitality. It’s about safety, clean streets, parks. It’s about taxes and gasoline prices. Only governments, and especially Ottawa, have the power to orchestrate so many instruments, and make a winning strategy emerge. On all these fronts we need to meet international standards, before turning our attention to outsmarting competition in the marketplace.”
Mr. Eustache also emphasized the importance of having a competitive Canadian airline industry, capable of enhancing “connectivity” to the world. “In this day and age, only agile airlines can succeed. And agility—at the very least—means a competitive cost structure,” he said. “If we want to have our companies compete globally and thrive, we need a level playing field. Right now, we don’t have that. Canadian carriers are at a disadvantage compared to their competitors, because Ottawa sees air transportation as a cash cow.”
“The burden of leadership can only rest on the government's shoulders. And I can’t wait to see our political leaders pay more attention to what the industry has to say. Canada needs a global strategy for tourism, and strong leadership,” Mr. Eustache concluded.
Transat A.T. Inc. is an integrated international tour operator with more than 60 destination countries and that distributes products in over 50 countries. A holiday travel specialist, Transat operates mainly in Canada and Europe, as well as in the Caribbean, Mexico and the Mediterranean Basin. Montreal-based Transat is also active in air transportation, destination services and distribution. (TSX: TRZ.B, TRZ.A)