Having just returned from Toronto where I spoke at Online Revealed Canada, the country's premier online marketing conference for hospitality and tourism professionals, I thought this would be as good an occasion as any to share how a few Canadian destinations are setting themselves apart in the ever-competitive online travel landscape. According to the latest Canadian DMO Benchmarking Study, conducted by A Couple of Chicks digital agency in Toronto, there are few trailblazers in the country, as we lag behind other international countries in terms of our online mobile presence, for example. Nevertheless, there are silver linings on these social media clouds, and there are certainly more than a few destinations that shine their way to a stellar online presence, as was demonstrated during the 5th annual Canada E-Tourism Awards, last April 9th. (see list of winners here)
So without further ado, here are some discoveries from the past week, along with some personal favorites from the past year. Did I miss any important ones? If so, please feel free to add your suggestion in the comment section below the post.
I have never been to Tofino, which sits at the far-end of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, but it's always been on my bucket list of places to travel to. Tourism Tofino won the coveted "Best Use of Technology" category at the recent Canadian E-Tourism Awards, and it's great to see such a small destination manage to have a responsive web design, along with a microsite, YourTofino.com, where folks are encouraged to share their moments via their preferred social media outlet.
The province of British Columbia also does a fine job to promote itself online, with a very dynamic, and responsive, website at HelloBC.com. The destination can count on an easy-to-remember hashtag #exploreBC which is also the name of its blog, a prodigious content generator. At the time of writing this post, there were more than 108,000 pictures tagged with #exploreBC on Instagram alone! Another great example of visual storytelling, as the destination repurposes these pictures on its blog and other digital accounts.
Home of the Canadian Rockies, Alberta has certainly been on the forefront of social media and online campaigns in the past 2-3 years. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will have heard of its acclaimed "Remember to Breathe" campaign, which won numerous awards at the international level. The 3-minutes long video has been seen more than 2.6M times on YouTube, not mentioning the airtime on various airlines, airports and placement in various countries.
In 2013, Travel Alberta joined forces with Expedia in the latest iteration of its "Find Your" campaign. With the "Find Your Alberta" initiative, the destination increased its awareness in key markets, while generating bookings and tangible results for partners along the way. The following slideshow sums it up pretty well!
Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance
Here's an excellent example of a group of like-minded businesses that created an alliance to better promote their products and services, under the umbrella of a so-called "destination". The OCTA, which stands for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, does a great job of building an online network where producers, chefs and food-lovers can share best practices and opportunities. For consumers and travelers who seek to experience authentic dining experiences, or meet with farmers, these resources are priceless.
Their website is chock-full of content, not to mention a blog, a newsletter and very dynamic social media presence across key platforms such as Pinterest, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
Source: Instagram. Photographer: @mariepierp
Back in 2009, the folks at Tourisme Montreal took a bold decision and never looked back: they were to dedicate 100% of their paid media to online tactics alone. Since then, there have been many initiatives to consolidate this leadership position, including a web responsive blog with five dedicated bloggers churning content like there's no tomorrow! With plans to revamp its website, which won many accolades when launched back almost five years ago, Tourisme Montreal has also been very active on most social media platforms there is: Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
Launched in 2013, its famous #mtlmoments hashtag captures everyday moments in the city, shared by locals and tourists alike. More than 32,000 photos have been tagged on Instagram only in less than a year! Read also: 4 Creative Uses of Instagram in Destination Marketing
Perhaps one of the lesser-known destinations in the province of Quebec, The Magdalen Islands are a hidden gem famous with locals in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, where most of its clientele come from. Surprisingly enough, this destination was the first one in the province to unveil a responsive web design in April 2013, based on three core experiences a traveler may seek to live when visiting the islands: Nature, Flavours or Culture.
This is a brand that also truly understand the power of photos and videos to tell a story, which explains their presence various social media accounts such as Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Yet another Canadian destination showcasing great panoramic photos through a responsive web design that reads just as well on a desktop, smartphone or tablet. Notice also how active the brand is on various social media outlets, reaching out to customers on their preferred network.
Even more interesting is the TripAdvisor logo showing among the social media icons. Clicking on it leads you to a detailed landing page, on TripAdvisor, where you'll find official destination photos, tips about things to see and do, and of course best-ranked accommodations and restaurants in the various areas to discover. A great way to harness the potential of review sites, from the get-go.
Tourism New Brunswick
Yup, this last destination, but not the least, also has a responsive web design making its online content accessible no matter which device you visit from. Like Nova Scotia, there is a clear invitation to share your experience directly on TripAdvisor, and I particularly appreciate how the online visitor is asked to define what it's looking for through one of two types of getaway: family & friends, or nature & cultural experience.
One can log "My Trip" ideas as well, so that if and when you return to the site, you may want to park some ideas of things to see and do for later, and access them as you book your upcoming vacation.
Others worthy of mention...
Well, sure, by choosing only eight Canadian destinations, I knew I would have to forego others that had just as much merit, if not more. So here are a few more that certainly deserve, at the very least, a mention and some kudos for their efforts as well:
- Tourism Richmond: I love how this British Columbia destination showcased its rich and varied restaurant offer with a blog, initiated through a contest that garnered over 1,500 applications leading to a winner who wrote everyday, during 365 days, about a different restaurant in the city! Check it out at 365 Days of Dining.
- Tourisme Mauricie: To many folks, Trois-Rivières (or Three-Rivers) is the city right in the middle of Montreal and Quebec City when driving on the Trans-Canada Highway. Yet, it is nestled in a beautiful area called Mauricie, that has been gaining traction in recent years thanks to an aggressive online presence. This destination was among the first ones in the province to host a blog, not to mention a very dynamic presence on all key social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+. A brand new responsive website is set to be unveiled in coming weeks, too...
- Newfoundland & Labrador: Breathtaking vistas are only the tip of the Iceberg, so to speak. Newfoundland & Labrador was another winner at this year's Canada E-Tourism Awards, in the "Best Online Campaign" category. If you are familiar with folks coming from the Rock, then you'll know they speak funny. In fact, some say there are over 100 dialects in Newfoundland alone... which explains this series of videos explaining slang and expressions. Funny stuff, indeed!
- Destination Halifax: Finally, I love how Halifax has put on a very social website, called "Halifax Sociable", distilling some of the shared content from various social media outlets. Not to mention their mobile application, that complements a very informative website and blog about the destination.
Do you know of any other Canadian destination that should have appeared on this post? And why? Please share your insights in the comment section below. Thanks!