Key Takeaways from the Canadian CEO Webinar 4-16

By Gabriel Seder, Senior Director of Advocacy Policy and Program Development, Destinations International Foundation

To help the destination organizations navigate unprecedented changes in our sector, Destinations International is organizing a series of educational webinars for industry leaders. Our most recent webinar for CEOs of Canadian destination organizations includes important lessons for destination professionals from large and small organizations across the country.

Here are the key takeaways from our April 16 webinar:

Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer & Foundation Executive, Destinations International

As Chief Advocacy Officer, Jack Johnson manages the overall public policy operations at Destinations International including member advocacy education and training, development of destination tools and best practices, coalition work with peer organizations, industry research and related public affairs activities.

People Need Help

Destination organizations need to frame the way that you work as helping people. The organizations that are effective in the next 6 weeks will be successful in telling their story to stakeholders over the next 6 months. Use this time to be relevant in the community but also use this time to explain to elected officials what a destination organization does. Remind them that destination organizations and the travel industry led the way out of the last recession and we are poised to do it again. Destination organizations bring customers, business, and investment to the destination. The main mission is not to put heads in beds, it is to strengthen the community’s economic position.

Public Officials Will Push Out Information

We saw a spike in the way people talk about coronavirus when the WHO declared a pandemic. Public officials are eager to share out official information that is provided to them. Destination organizations should be sharing content and messages with elected officials and ask them to start communicating about tourism.

Rob Leforte, Vice President, Impact Public Affairs

Leforte is an experienced advocate for destination organizations with strengths in relationship building, campaigns, communications, policy analysis and development, event logistics, and delivering key messages to media and decision makers.

Secure, Support, Recover

Canadian response is coming in three phases: secure, support, and recover. So far, the relief has been intended to “secure”. Goal of this phase is to empower people to make the best possible public health choices. This prevents people from feeling compelled to go to work or elsewhere when they should be practicing social distancing.  The federal government of Canada has implemented a staged approach to federal support, including rolling out new incentive and relief programs over several weeks.

In Canada, the “Team Canada” approach seems to be working. The federal government has partnered with the provinces to ensure that they have buy-in and that the measures being rolled out across the country are uniform and applicable in all places.

Relief Measures Continue to Evolve

Canada Emergency Response Benefit has been set up for any workers who lose their job, loses a significant amount of their income, or does not have income for 14 days. Provides up to $2,000 per month, and some provinces are providing additional benefits on top.

Canadian Employer Wage Subsidy will pay up to 75% of employee salaries up to about $58,000 in effort to allow employers to keep workers on their payroll. As workers are able to begin going back to work, this should ease the transition. This has been expanded to include seasonal employees, which was a sticking point for many tourism businesses.

These programs continue to evolve; there is a lot of flexibility in the implementation and there are new provisions being introduced frequently to accommodate additional industries. In the near term, expect to see sector-specific support for some industries which will drive recovery. In particular expect programs for national airlines. Cruise lines may get some support but should expect additional regulatory oversight.

Trouble Brewing on the Border

One of the biggest political fights will be around the US-Canada border. Expect pressure from US to open the border to get trade flowing. Canada will likely push back on the timing of opening the border, in particular regarding non-essential traffic. It’s possible that we’ll see localized restrictions for many months.

Cassandra McAuley, Vice President, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, Tourism Calgary

McAuley is an experienced Executive Director of corporate communications, stakeholder engagement and strategy development with a demonstrated history of working in emergency management and tourism industries. She is skilled in crisis communications, media relations, strategy and stakeholder collaboration.

Emergency Wage Subsidy Brought Back Workers

Tourism Calgary laid off 60% of its team on March 26; on April 15 they recalled workers because they were able to tap into Emergency Wage Subsidy program. They took on some debt to frontload the payment requirements that the program requires because they own their building. The program allows them to keep workers on payroll through June 6.

Significant Experience in Stakeholder Engagement

The crisis has pushed Tourism Calgary to engage with stakeholders at an unprecedented level. They host weekly virtual meetings with Board of Directors and are in daily communication with key partners including the Calgary Hotel Association, Airport Authority, Mayor’s Office, Calgary Economic Development, and other. They are also in wWeekly communication with Travel Alberta, Destination Canada, and other national partners. They post daily updates to their COVID-19 industry website as information comes available. At first, available information was changing very quickly, but more recently the results have more staying power as things seem to slow down. 

Weekly virtual communication with stakeholders. Responding to media reactively and proactively. 

Time for Planning Meetings and Conventions

Tourism Calgary recently acquired meeting and convention sales for the destination. With meeting permits canceled through June 30, they are using this time to build out collateral and websites. The destination is in the process of building out the second-largest convention facility in the country, so this is forcing them to reconsider what the meetings and events of the future will look like.

Two-fold Approach to Advocacy

Advocacy has never been as important. They are pursuing a two-fold approach: one on behalf of Canadian DMOs, and the second is on behalf of the local industry. Working with all orders of government both directly and through partners. They sit on multiple task forces and roundtables.

Rebuild Before Rebound

They will need to rebuild the industry and local confidence, beginning with hyper-local markets. Using this time to revisit the destination strategy and consider opportunities for destination development. We need to consider new sources of funding and partnerships for rebuilding for the future.

Keep Up to Date with Destinations International  

This webinar is recorded and available online on our Online Learning Center. 

Destinations International is committed to keeping you up to date as COVID-19 continues to disrupt our industry. Join us for our weekly COVID-19 update webinar series, led by industry experts from around the world.  Register here.  

About the Author

Gabe Seder
Senior Director of Advocacy Policy & Program Development
Destinations International Foundation
Gabe is a tourism marketing and destination development professional with more than 10 years of experience consulting for emerging and established destinations and tourism businesses around the world. He has supported city, regional, and national destination organizations to create and implement tourism strategies and master plans, develop and roll out national tourism brands, and implement international multi-channel marketing campaigns.

A native of coastal Maine, Gabriel lives in Washington DC. He has a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the George Washington University.