Travel Activities and Motivations Survey

Loyalty Segmentation of the US Travel Market

Full report available in pdf format

TAMS 2006

Ontario Report

With respect to source markets, there is one clear focal point for Ontario when it comes to protecting tResults of this analysis suggest that the Province of Ontario faces a challenging road in its US source markets if it is to both defend its current position in the tourism marketplace and re-establish a growth trajectory. In order to meet this challenge, it is clear that creative reassessment of current marketing strategies and product offerings should be undertaken. The “prize” could be a significant one, however, in that there is evidence of very real opportunity to reinvigorate the brand and stimulate growth in the US. It is also encouraging that these findings do not point to a need to overhaul the brand or adopt a fundamentally different positioning strategy. Instead, there is perhaps an opportunity to broaden the positioning “around the edges” and, to take a more aggressive approach to promoting the brand and the product offering in strategically important markets that have not traditionally been focal points for Ontario.

There are, without question, a number of analytical paradigms that can be applied to an assessment of Ontario’s standing in the tourism marketplace. This study is founded on an approach that integrates geographic proximity with an objective assessment of traveller affinity with Ontario as a possible pleasure travel destination. As such, this work offers but one of many possible perspectives on the marketplace. It does, however, deal with two fundamentally important constructs of market opportunity (distance and psychological association or connection). Moreover, the results derived through application of this approach seemingly provide some clarity when it comes to understanding the challenges ahead, assessing the magnitude of the opportunity and deriving recommendations that have practical utility and are consistent with what we already know.

Overview

We have identified two geographic regions as strategic focal points for Ontario: Tier One and surrounding areas (essentially, the traditional Near Markets) and Tier Three (the remainder of the Great Lakes States and US Northeast). These regions have been singled out because they have distinctive relationships with Ontario, have different roles to play with respect to enhancing Ontario’s volume potential in the US, and offer dissimilar forms of opportunity that impact marketing and product in distinctive ways. The one ubiquitous characteristic cutting across both of these tiers, is the strong overall appeal generated by Ontario as a potential tourism destination. Ontario is at least as well received as any of its direct competitors among travellers in these tiers who are most capable of fuelling future success. Although Ontario may generate relatively little excitement or enthusiasm, this strong generic appeal provides a solid foundation upon which to build momentum.

A brief synopsis of the state of affairs in each of these tiers is given below.

Tier One

This represents the Near Market urban core (Buffalo, Rochester, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh). Marketing initiatives have been focused on these DMAs during the recent past (with the possible exception of Pittsburgh), and incidence of travelling to Ontario is elevated in all five. Tier Two shares much in common with these source markets, for it essentially constitutes the regions surrounding the core urban agglomerations that are in close proximity to the Ontario border. However, Tier One does present itself as a legitimate focal point for marketing efforts, given the importance of population density in establishing marketing efficiency.

Unlike the other Tiers, Tier One (and Tier Two) has strategic importance with respect to feeding both the same-day and overnight tourism volume streams for Ontario. Although the TAMS survey does not deal with same-day travel in any comprehensive way, this fact should be kept in mind, for it not only elevates the importance of the nearby tiers, but it also plays some role in structuring the nature of the Ontario tourism experience and perceptions driving familiarity with the Province among travellers resident in these areas.

Most travellers in Tier One have some degree of familiarity with Ontario and most have taken a trip to the Province at some point in the past. Awareness building is not an issue. However, there is only a small pool of travellers in this market who have not visited within the past two years and are open to the idea of considering a trip to Ontario in the future. In this sense, growth opportunities are limited. Indeed, the most significant challenge in this market is defensive in nature – specifically, convincing the large pool of past visitors who are currently uncommitted to Ontario to consider returning. To a considerable extent, this means exciting them about what Ontario offers that: is consistent with their needs; is in keeping with Ontario’s strengths (has credibility); but is different from what they may have experienced in the past. In other words, widening the range of product made available and communicated to these travellers.

In Tier One, there is a need, perhaps to go to a new level by rekindling interest in Ontario through efforts to broaden the repertoire on the same positioning platform. This means embellishment and adding depth, rather than re-invention, and also suggests an opportunity to work with a broader palate of intended emotional responses.

In Tier Three, the essence of Ontario needs to be placed front and centre on the stage. At the present time, the province is hidden in the wings to some degree. It is understood, of course, that the budget is not available to target Tier Three in its entirety. Still, an argument can be made to selectively target a few key population centres in this region.

Finally, it is important to recognize that there are two sets of competitors that offer primary competition to Ontario and against which it must achieve some success as a tourist destination in the US. The first of these consists of the nearby border states such as New York and Ohio. The second is represented by US tourism regions that have very broad reach – Florida being primary among them. Although the latter may not be directly competitive, these destinations are nonetheless capable of attracting a large share of available pleasure travel dollars. Ontario must, therefore, be provided with enough innate appeal to reserve its share of tourism dollars within this competitive environment.