E.D. Corner: June 2024

Good Day,

Summer is just around the corner and I am sure that you, like me, are wondering what the season will bring in terms of visitors.  At GlowZone 360, we track and compare all our revenue lines on a weekly basis and compare them to the same week in previous years so that we can quickly identify where we are gaining ground and where we are slipping.  Over the last few months, our walk-in traffic has been down by about 10% year-over-year.  Granted, in 2023 we saw numbers that were way higher than anything we ever imagined possible as the pent-up demand for people to get out and reconnect took hold.  However, we aren’t satisfied with just accepting that as “the way it is”.  We want to do everything we can to keep those numbers high.  And, according to Deloitte’s 2024 Summer Travel Outlook report, the current summer travel season, coupled with our own plan to boost visitation,  may get us up to and even surpassing our 2023 numbers.

The 2024 Summer Travel Outlook bodes well for destinations throughout Ontario.  First, the majority of people plan on spending more on their vacations/getaways this year and the reason for that is that most people recognize that the cost of providing experiences has increased.  That is a key piece of the puzzle in my mind.  Yes, there will always be people who are looking for “a deal” and badgering to get you to drop your price.  But as it turns out, they are in the minority – they just happen to be the loudest.  What most people are looking for is value.  And value doesn’t mean cheap.  What it means is they are satisfied with the price they paid because what they received met or exceeded their expectations.   For us, that means we do not lower our posted prices when we do special promotions.  We have enough volume of guests coming in once or twice a year to know that the price point we have set is fair value.  However, to get those same people to visit three or four times a year while also enticing new visitors to try us out, we add value to the promotion.  For instance, we have just launched a “Date Night” promotion that is valid Friday – Sunday after 9pm.  Visitors that purchase two 360 Combo Admissions receive a free token for our photobooth (retail value $5) to capture the date forever.  The hard cost for us is $0.12 and the best thing is that the photobooth allows people to post the pictures (with our branded frame) to their social channels in addition to printing them off as a keepsake.  We just launched the program and are already seeing some uptake from it, which will help grow our walk-in traffic.  There is great perceived value on the promotion without having to discount the core offering.

The second interesting fact is that 72% of Ontarians plan on vacationing in Ontario.  More people are staying closer to home this year and, since we have the biggest population in Canada, there are some good opportunities to capitalize on these backyard tourists.   Toronto is the second most popular vacation destination for all Canadians.  That is also a good thing because, as you know, anyone who isn’t from Toronto just assumes that all of our cities, towns and villages are just neighbourhoods of Toronto.  What is going to be more important than ever is working together to create a destination that people want to spend a day or two exploring.  For GlowZone 360, that means we need to be working with our Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO’s), Brampton and Mississauga Tourism, in addition to collaborating with other local attractions, and doing our own marketing and advertising. Both Brampton and Mississauga get a lot of vacationers because the hotel prices are less expensive than downtown.  This is also true for most of the accommodations within Central Counties. Making sure we are connected to our two DMO’s, who are then connected to the local hotels, and ensure visitors get information about things to see and do in the region, helps us get in front of people who might not want to just sit around their hotel room after dinner.  The hope is that by keeping our business front and centre through our DMO’s, we will increase our evening walk-in traffic.

Most of the municipalities within Central Counties do have supports for growing the visitor economy, and many of them also have community tourism plans.  This summer, it is going to be more imperative than ever to tell your community’s collective story rather than trying to reach potential visitors individually.  In addition to the people that will actually be vacationing in Ontario this summer, there are millions of residents who will be looking for things to do on their days off.  They are going to want a full day of things to see and do, so reaching them as a destination is going to be more successful than reaching them on an individual basis.  But if they do find you as an individual business, it would make really good sense for you to have a direct link from your website to the municipal website so that they can learn about the other things to see and do in your community.  When they realize there is a whole day’s worth of activities, it may motivate them to drive further to see you!

The report also notes that 2/3rds of vacationers are up for a road trip this summer and it is a 60/40 split on people looking for more rural vs urban experiences.  This is VERY good news for our region which has a geography that almost matches perfectly with people’s preferred destinations.  The thing to keep in mind is that with so much of the population looking to travel this year, your type of visitors are going to be part of that mix.  The report actually notes that 1% of travellers will be looking for theme or amusement parks.  I almost dismissed it at first because it is such a small percentage, but then I did the math.  Just in Ontario, there are around 15M residents.  According to the study, 80% will be taking a vacation this summer and 72% of them will stay in Ontario.  That means that 86,000 people who will be travelling are predisposed to also do what our attraction offers.  Working with our industry association (Attractions Ontario) ensures that we are front and centre, getting seen by the people that are looking to do what we do best.  And that number is a small drop in the bucket compared to the millions of people who are looking for something to do in the evening or on the weekends.  If you aren’t already doing so, I strongly suggest that you get involved with your industry associations including your local BIA.  There are many associations out there, including the Culinary Tourism Alliance, Resorts of Ontario, Camping in Ontario, Ontario by Bike, and Indigenous Tourism Ontario.  There are also many Facebook groups that have members that are looking for what you offer.  Just search them up and ask to become a member.  Our organization belongs to several Facebook groups for parents looking for things to do with their kids.  We don’t even need to post.  We just reply to comments when what they are looking for matches what we do.

At the end of the day, it looks like the travel gods are getting ready to lob up a nice soft pitch for all of us.  How you prepare yourself by working together to create compelling destinations and reaching the right audiences can mean the difference between hitting a home run and striking out.  Let’s all work together to collectively emerge from the summer as winners.  As always, we are here to help you find your teammates.  Email me anytime and we can set up some time to chat.  I can be reached at cthibeault@centralcounties.ca.

Have a great day!

Chuck

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Chuck Thibeault

Executive Director, Chuck Thibeault