TRAVEL DIFFERENT: ETC, CATO lead by example on Europe
It was a curious event, on many levels. “Europe invites the curious” was the theme, but the Toronto trade gala last week was also the first-ever collaboration between the European Travel Commission (ETC) and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO).
Together the two organizations came together for a trade event to promote Europe, but notably featuring seven destination competitors, and also 10 tour operator members not typically accustomed to working together, at least for promotional purposes.
On hand from the former were Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Flanders, and Germany, (absent Italy), while the CATO clan included Collette, Goway, TravelBrands, G Adventures, Transat, TTC Tour Brands, Intrepid, Railbookers, Globus, and RIT.
And close to a hundred travel advisors (tour operators invited 10 top agents each).
CATO, of course, is better known for its role as industry advocates, for example its current campaign to reform TICO and travel agent fees in Ontario, but CATO chair Brett Walker (Collette) told Travel Industry Today, “We can do a lot more than advocacy… We can be ardent competitors by day, but then there are causes we can work together on (by night)” – a notion that was proven in spades during the pandemic, he says.
ETC Canada chair Sandra Moffatt (Ireland) added that everyone taking part was working together towards the same goal – promoting travel, and in this case travel to Europe.
Marco Frank (Flanders), ETC’s vice chair, noted that all the participants also had such common aims as sustainability and diversity, promoting off-season and off-the-beaten track travel, and other “different” tourism styles, adding that the event successfully and uniquely brought “the supply chain together.
And together the ETC and CATO put on a show. Attendees sampled beer from Flanders and whiskey and gin from Ireland, slurped oysters on account of France, nibbled Christmas gingerbread and cookies courtesy of Germany, with cheese from Switzerland, and were entertained by lively Irish fiddlers and Spanish dancers supported by a flamenco guitarist. Dinner, meanwhile, concluded with a bevy of giveaways, including trip vouchers.
Walker urged the audience to embrace the evening’s theme: “Plan different. Travel Different. BE Different.”
“We’re all thinking about it,” he stated, “We haven’t perfected it yet, but in 10 years, travel will be entirely different.”
Moffatt reported that Canadian visitations to Europe are on track to top 90% of pre-pandemic levels this year and are expected to surpass 2019 totals next year. The top growth market from Canada was Turkey, followed by Portugal and Spain. And overall, Canada still represents Europe’s third largest market behind the US and China.
Other trends include Canadians spending more and staying longer in Europe (perhaps not unrelated).
And despite economic headwinds, Moffatt said ETC research shows that the travel sentiment in Canada for Europe remains “very positive.”
Most importantly, she added, the evening event showed that the industry in this country can work together for the greater good. After all, she said, “there’s enough people out there that we can spread it around.”
In other words, “travel different.”
First published at Travel Industry Today