Atlantic Canada and the US Market – Who, What, Where and When

In 2018, the Atlantic Canada Agreement on Tourism (ACAT) invested in a direct-to-consumer advertising campaign in the Mid-Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) and New England (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island) regions of the United States. This campaign positioned the four Atlantic Provinces as preferred leisure travel destinations among identified Explorer Quotient (EQ) segments.

The targeted segments for the ACAT 2018 campaign included Older Authentic Experiencers, Younger Authentic Experiencers and Cultural Explorers.

ACAT conducted consumer research within these markets using a targeted approach and segments to understand traveler characteristics and interests, travel behavior and destination experiences, activities as well as assess destination and brand awareness. Check out the 2018 US Consumer Study and Highlights report for more details. Here are a few of the key findings.

Outside of shopping (the most popular activity), visitors to Canada are most likely to have participated in activities that immerse them in the local culture and surroundings.
• The top activities during past travel to Canada included shopping, historic sites, experiencing local cuisine, strolling around to observe buildings and architecture, and visiting natural attractions.
• These top activities (outside of shopping) are also things that were of most of interest to travelers who fit the target EQ segments and thus should be heavily promoted in future marketing campaigns.
• Older Authentic Experiencers and Cultural Explorers were more likely to take in fine dining experiences on vacations to Canada.
• Interestingly, travelers tended to take part in fewer activities and attractions while on vacations in Canada compared to trips within the US.

The top factors affecting destination selection included being a safe place to visit, offers good value for money and a place to spend quality time with friends or family.
While these are fairly “general” travel requirements for any destination, there were a number of characteristics which were of more importance to those who fit the target EQ segments including being a place that provides intellectually stimulating travel experiences, having cities that are great for exploring and soaking in the atmosphere, having a unique culture that I would want to experience on a vacation, and being a place where I can experience things that I can’t experience at home. Atlantic Canada’s ability to deliver on these characteristics should be leveraged in future marketing campaigns.

The January to April time frame is a key period for marketing and communications efforts given this is when the majority of trip researching and booking occurs for New England and Mid-Atlantic travelers.
• The majority of trips taken by New England and Mid-Atlantic travelers occur during the peak season from May to October (with July – September being the prime travel period).
• Trip planning begins up to 5 months prior to the trip while on average travelers start booking their trips 3 to 4 months ahead of time making the January to April time period a very important period for marketing Atlantic Canada.
• Cultural Explorers indicated they take the least amount of time to plan/book their trip which is consistent with their segment profile.

Online sources are key during the trip planning process.
• The top three information sources for New England and Mid-Atlantic travelers included review and booking websites along with destination websites.
• Other sources like travel guide books, AAA, word of mouth and official travel guides are secondary to online sources. New England travelers were more likely to use AAA and word of mouth.
• AAA, travel guides and maps play a bigger role for Older Authentic Experiencers than other segments which is important to note when targeting this group.

Auto and air travel are the key modes of travel for trips to the Atlantic Provinces.
Passenger vehicle was the top mode of travel for both New England and Mid-Atlantic travelers followed closely by air travel. New England travelers were more likely to indicate traveling by car which is expected given the closer proximity to the Atlantic Provinces.