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Canada urgently requires a real strategy to reap the benefits of growth in the travel and tourism industry
Speaking today to the Cercle finance et placement du Québec in Montreal, Jean-Marc Eustache, President and CEO of Transat A.T. Inc., one of the world’s leading integrated tour operators, called upon the Canadian government to adopt a coherent global strategy to ensure the future of the travel and tourism industry as an engine of economic development in Canada.
“The game is changing. Competition among destinations is intensifying,” Mr. Eustache explained, “and if we do not act, we are placing a major component of economy and our future in jeopardy.”
In sketching out a few constituent elements of such a strategy, Mr. Eustache highlighted the importance of ensuring that our airport infrastructures are accessible at competitive rates — they are currently among the most expensive in the world. It costs three times as much to land at Pearson in Toronto as at Charles-de-Gaulle in Paris; it also costs three times as much to land in Montreal as in Rome.
“On the one hand, the government supports development of the aerospace industry, which is to be applauded; but on the other, it insists on taxing passengers and weakening the cost structures of our airline companies, thus hindering their growth, which to me seems incoherent,” he noted. “We must also reach a profitable open-skies agreement with Europe, create conditions to help our air carriers gradually renew their fleets and make them more environmentally friendly, invest new money in promoting our country as an international tourism destination, and take steps to ensure that our product – our tourism offering – continues to evolve apace with travellers’ changing expectations.”
Mr. Eustache emphasized his points by highlighting the contrast between Canada and the United Arab Emirates, a tiny region of the world that is carving out an enviable niche for itself in the tourism and aviation industries. Cirque du Soleil and even the Louvre will soon take up residence there, he remarked, while a new airport is currently under construction that will have a capacity of 120 million passengers a year.
“Meanwhile, in Canada, we are under-financing tourism promotion, levying taxes without investing and without providing services, and we are turning our back on promising projects,” he said in essence. “We will never succeed in making the Canadian travel industry a true engine of economic development and remain a major tourism destination unless we adopt a strategic, coordinated and visionary approach.”
An English translation of the speech is available on the Transat website at www.transat.com.
Transat A.T. Inc. is an integrated international tour operator with more than 60 destination countries and that distributes products in over 50 countries. It is also the largest incoming tour operator in Canada. 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, accommodation, destination services and distribution. (TSX: TRZ.B, TRZ.A)