Canada Aims to Bond With U.S. Agents

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LOS ANGELES -- Canada is trying to forge a tighter partnership with U.S. travel agents, according to Judd Buchanan, chairman of the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC).

"They used to see Canada as primarily a border-drive vacation, which meant that our major focus was on the northern states," Buchanan told reporters here. "But with the opening of the skies between the U.S. and Canada, whole new markets have developed in the central and southern states, as well," he said.

Buchanan, a former member of the Canadian Parliament and a former cabinet minister, said it now is possible to fly nonstop to Toronto, Canada's largest city, from 41 U.S. gateways. And he noted that other destinations, such as Calgary and Vancouver, are linked with the U.S. by nonstop services.

"This convenience has been a big factor in the growth of air travel to Canada," he said. "Whereas it used to represent a relatively small part of our business, about 30% of all our U.S. visitors now arrive by plane."

The CTC's regional offices in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and Washington traditionally have published and distributed their own newsletters to agents. Now, however, Buchanan said, a single, centrally produced publication containing more package, air and general travel information will be used. And, in the last six months, the organization established a 12-member agent advisory board that will meet quarterly.

Canada, according to Buchanan, welcomed more than 13.3 million overnight visitors from the U.S. in 1997, making it the second-best year after 1986. He said the figures represented a 3.5% growth in road traffic and a 5.5% increase in arrivals by air.

The CTC was formed at the request of Prime Minister Jean Chretien three years ago with a commitment of $35 million in federal funds. He challenged the private sector to match that sum annually within three years; it exceeded in two, contributing nearly $49 million. Chretien raised the government's pledge to $45 million and, Buchanan said, with the industry's help, he expected the organization to be funded with at least $105 million this year.

He added that in 1998 the CTC would direct $35 million at the U.S. market; just four years ago, Canada spent $3.5 million on tourism promotion in this country.

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