Business and leisure travel stable nationally, business travel down in Ontario

Latest results from the 2014 HAC Canadian Travel Intentions Survey show that business and leisure travel is projected to remain the same as last year. Eighty-one per cent of business travellers will be travelling more or the same for business in 2014. The exception is Ontario, where business travel is projected to be down four per cent over last year’s numbers. The highest increase for business travel in 2014 is in the Prairies and BC at 27 per cent, three per cent more than the national average.

“While business travel numbers remain stable for 2014, there is some worry about the downturn in Ontario,” said Tony Pollard, HAC President. “This information, on the heels of the federal budget cuts to provincial transfer payments is not good news for Ontario properties catering to domestic business travellers.”

Eighty-three per cent of leisure travellers will travel more or the same as last year and 11 per cent will travel less. Overall, leisure travel intentions are the same as 2013 and 2012 results. While leisure travel is static nationally, 36 per cent of BCers said they would be travelling more for leisure, 14 per cent more than the national average and up two per cent over 2013. Respondents from the Prairies expressed the most uncertainty regarding leisure travel with 17 per cent indicating they will travel less than 2013 and eight per cent undecided.

Business travellers who said they would be travelling less this year said they would be doing so for two main reasons, the price of gas/energy (20 per cent) and the cost of air fare (20 per cent). The economy, not as much of a concern in 2013, has jumped back into the top three reasons for travelling less for business in 2014 (17 per cent). The Canadian dollar, for the first time in four years, is again a concern with 16 per cent of business respondents. Worries about the economy, the Canadian dollar and the price of gas are highest with Ontario business travellers.

Canadians travelling to the United States

Twenty-nine per cent of Canadian travellers said they would be doing more travel to the US in 2014 than 2013, up three per cent over last year’s numbers.

Seventeen per cent of 2014 respondents said they travelled to the U.S. for cheaper airline tickets in 2013, with the highest number of cross border ticket buyers from Ontario and British Columbia. A further 23 per cent said they plan on cross border shopping for cheaper air fares in 2014. An alarming 60 per cent of respondents also said they knew people who travelled to the U.S. in 2013 to purchase cheaper airline tickets.

“Canada’s aviation cost structure is one of the highest in the world. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada ranks 136th out of 139 countries,” says Pollard. “Aviation and airport fees and charges make Canada’s aviation costs almost 30 per cent higher than other jurisdictions. It is no wonder Canadians continue to flock to the US to purchase less expensive airline tickets.”

Influence of technology

More Canadian travellers are looking to the web and social media for travel information. Social media, while not influential for business travellers four years ago, now has almost a quarter of business travellers saying they use information from this medium to help make their hotel selections with online testimonials having the most impact on accommodation selection (58 per cent). Seventy two per cent of leisure travellers said ratings on internet booking services and other sites have a great deal of influence on where they choose to stay. Fifty-one per cent of leisure travellers in the 18 – 24 year old category and 34 per cent of those in the 25-34 year old category are most influenced by social media, while leisure travellers in the 55+ category are the least influenced.

“More and more Canadians are using social media to post pictures, load videos and make comments about places they have stayed, and it’s having quite the influence on other travellers’ decisions,” says Pollard. “Hotels know they are being scrutinized like never before and are rising up to the challenge.”

Smartphones – travellers are connected

Seventy per cent of travellers (up 11 per cent over 2013) use smart phones when they travel. The majority use their phones to get in touch with family/friends (52%), particularly those from the Prairies (59 per cent). As always, Canadian travellers are weather-obsessed, with 48 per cent (up seven per cent over 2013) saying they use their smart phones to check the weather. Again those from the Prairies check the weather the most at 58 per cent. Forty per cent said they use GPS and/or get directions on their smart phones, an increase of eight per cent since 2011. Facebook is becoming more popular with all age groups with 29 per cent of travellers (up five per cent from 2013) using their smart phones to check Facebook.

For the first time, HAC asked about hailing a cab with a smart phone and 13 per cent of travellers said they have. Fourteen per cent book hotels (almost same as 2013) and seven per cent buy air, train, or bus tickets on their smart phones. Ten per cent use their smart and mobile phones to tweet, up three per cent from 2013.

“Almost 60 per cent of 18 – 34 year old travellers are using their smart phones for GPS or directions, 20 per cent more than the rest of the Canadian population. The days of reading a map are long gone for this young adult crowd,” said Mr. Pollard.

Green Key program – Important to both business and leisure travellers

The importance of hotel environmental certification such as the HAC Green Key program took a dramatic leap this year with 44 per cent of Canadian business travellers, up 18 per cent over 2013 numbers. Those from the Atlantic (53 per cent) found it the most important, followed by BC (48 per cent). Three per cent more leisure travellers over last year said environmental certification programs are important to them. This is up seven per cent over the past five years.

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