Although awareness of New Zealand in Canada is not as low as in the US, one of the biggest challenges in this market is building perceptions that New Zealand is a good-value holiday option and offers something different to Canadians.
The Canadian market returned to growth in 2014 and is poised to again pass the 50,000 visitor barrier on an annual basis. This is after several years of flat and declining performance since first breaking the 50,000 visitor arrivals mark in 2008 after Air New Zealand commenced direct services. While the Canadian economy is strengthening it is behind the progress of the US economy and the Canadian Dollar has weakened in recent years.
Unlike other long-haul markets, the distance and time it takes to travel to New Zealand is not a big concern to Canadians. They have a good understanding of where New Zealand is geographically and also about the distances required to travel long-haul.
More than half (53 per cent) of Canadian arrivals are holiday visitors, and over half are aged 45 years of age or older. Two-thirds are first-time visitors to New Zealand. Ontario (Toronto) is Canada's leading source region for visitors to New Zealand, followed by British Columbia (Vancouver).
Four out of five Canadian visitors include other destinations as part of their itinerary to New Zealand, with Australia being the most popular country en-route. Canadians tend to stay in New Zealand longer than their American neighbours and they generally spend more during their stay. More than half (67.4 per cent) of Canadian visitors to New Zealand travel beyond the main tourist centres to the regions.
A big factor contributing to this holiday pattern is the large number of Canadian “snowbirds” who choose to travel to avoid the Canadian winter. Commonly this group will spend extended time in apartment style accommodation in areas such as the Gold Coast then add on a New Zealand holiday on their way back to Canada.
Like the US, cruise travellers are an increasingly large contributor to Canadian arrival numbers. Arrivals currently sit around 10,000 per annum but have grown rapidly. This has helped contribute to the overall aging of the Canadian visitor with youth arrivals largely unchanged in the past five years.
Tourism New Zealand uses a mix of trade engagement, search engine marketing and public relations to market New Zealand in Canada. The Canadian consumer is more traditional in their holiday purchasing behaviour.