A $300,000,000 Business
I. NORMAN SMITH
In a good year more than 18,000,000 tourists tour in Canada and the money they spend bulks larger than the total revenue from our exports of wheat
THERE'S AN old saying that travel makes you wise in which case the eighteen million Americans who visit Canada each year must return home wise to the fact that Canada is a great country but that Canadians don't know a good thing when they see it.
For, say what you will about the American, he does know about the value of advertising; and after coming here he goes home, knowing that we have a $300,000,000 industry which we allow to ix>ke along as best it can under the feeble stimulant of a $250,(XX) Dominion Government grant. plus whatever effort the provinces and others choose to undertake in their own way.
To stretch a pun almost beyond recognition, Canada hides her light under a bushel, or under the 227,000,000 bushels which were exported in 1937. "Canada, the land of wheat," is our banner. Vet the tourist industry brought more money to Canada in 1937 than all the wheat we sold to other countries; more, in fact, than the revenue of the total sale abroad of all our grain and grain products.
To be precise: In 1937 there were 18,248,285 visitors to this country, who paid $294,682,000 for scenery, transportation, food and service. Of these, 18,000,000 were Americans, spending about $270,000,(XX).
All the wheat we sold to other countries in 1937 brought us $223,461,009 $71,000,000 less than our tourist revenue.
But enough of statistics. Without quoting any more figures it will lx* realized what a really great business this tourist business is. There is a tendency noticeable among our so-called "better class” to sneer at the tourist, to make fun of his funny pants and to condemn his trailer as something that the Government shouldn't allow on our roads. Perhaps it is a natural enough trait, inherited from the early ages when the stranger within the gates was always a figure of suspicion. But it is a pity. For “thar's gold in them thar hills.” gold aplenty. Next time the Federal budget is presented, and you wonder at the amount of our indebtedness. jot down on your cuff how much larger it would be but for that band of peripatetic nomads from the South. We count on them every* spring in much the same way as we anticipate the return of the robin, but without them we’d be in a bad way.
What are we doing to increase this business? The answer to that direct question is a trifle embarrassing, for it shows little of the rambunctious vigor of which this great country boasts.
The Dominion Government has. for the past three years, granted the Canadian Travel Bureau $250,000 a year to persuade foreign tourists to visit this country. On top of that, there are the advertising appropriations of the two railways, much of which is spent in the United States and which total probably close to $1,000,000. Then there is the
work done by the individual provinces whose travel bureaus specialize in their provincial attractions, and whose appropriations, along with those of smaller commercial interests, swell the entire Dominion effort to perhaps $2,000,(XX) a year. In other words, to maintain and if possible increase a business that now means nearly $300,000,000 a year to this country, we expend a grand total of a trifle more than $2,000,000. And of that $2,000,000, about $260,000 will be eaten up in administration and salaries.
Of course there are two ways of looking at the matter. It might be argued that $300,000,000 is a tidy income—even though it is only gross income from a $2,000,000 outlay, and that with all our other expenses we shouldn’t bother trying to gild this nest egg. Three hundred million dollars is three hundred million dollars, some will say, and not until it begins to shrink, need we worry about it.
However, that is hardly the way a successful businessman would look at it. He is more likely to shout that the Government is playing ostrich or something, and for heaven’s sake let's exploit this bonanza for all its worth. And there’s nothing in the record of the Canadian Travel Bureau to lead us to believe that the tourist industry would not respond to further urging. As AÍ Smith used to say, let’s look at the record.
The Canadian Travel Bureau emerged in May, 1934, from the deliberations of a Senate committee under the chairmanship of the Hon. W. H. Dennis. The committee found that the tourist trade of Canada was a matter of national concern, that it was capable of great expansion, and that a Canadian Travel Bureau should be immediately
established to administer a permanent, progressive program of tourist travel promotion. D. Leo Dolan, director of the New Brunswick Travel Bureau and a former newspaperman, was named director. The new organization was granted $100,000 for the remainder of 1934. In 1935 it was allowed $200,000, and since 1936 the grant has been $250,000.
The Bureau promptly set about co-ordinating tourist promotion work throughout the Dominion, eliminating the duplication, as far as possible, of effort in which the provincial units had hitherto floundered, conducting an advertising campaign in the United States and through the mails, carrying the message of Canada’s tourist attractions by letter and pamphlet to every prospective tourist and tourist association it could reach.
rT'IIE best measure of the Bureau’s success is perhaps a comparison of the number of enquiries it has received each year since its inception. In 1937 people to the number of 75,196 wrote to the Bureau from foreign countries, asking everything from how we did our hair to how long it would take to get from Lake Ontario to Toronto. This is an increase of forty-two per cent over the number of enquiries received in 1936. and the astonishing increase of 183 per cent over 1935. Nor were these merely idle queries to help fill a crossword puzzle. Most of them meant business. Of the 75.196 queries received in 1937, no fewer than 66,207 were in response to direct advertising in magazines and
newspapers. The remainder were caught somewhere by picture folders in travel offices, boards of trade and the travel bureaus of other countries. The Bureau estimates that ninety-two per cent of these enquiries came from the United States.
Another interesting phase of the Bureau’s activity has been the sending of questionnaires to all tourists on their return home. From these it has been learned, with some detail, how much time and money has been spent by how many people, how they passed their time, what they liked and what they didn’t like, and. last but not least, where they would like to go on their next visit. The last is a neat device by which the Bureau is able to direct literature of a particular kind right to the living-room table of a family that has indicated merely a vague interest. It has been remarkably successful.
These questionnaires also have enabled the Bureau, with the help of the Department of Immigration and the Bureau of Statistics, to estimate the total tourist revenue to Canada, and to break it down in terms of how, why, where and when. The value of this effort alone has virtually justified the quarter of a million dollars spent on the Bureau each year.
But before studying the statistical findings, let’s take a look at the correspondence itself.
To read it is great stuff; just like listening in on a “confidential” chat at an old ladies’ tea. It’s an ideal guide to “What the American Tourist Thinks of Canada.” The writers take the high roads and the low roads, and “the Province of Canada” unrolls before your eyes. It is a cheap
trip too; the only effort being to board the rickety elevator in the West Block of the Parliament Buildings and hunt out the nooks and crannies on the third floor, where the Travel Bureau huddles under the eave of a sloping roof.
“Cobwebs in Your Cabins”
AS MIGHT be expected, there is some criticism. Tourist cabins came under fire on several counts. “Why not lengthen your beds?” asked one. “You have cobwebs in your cabins,” said another. (As a song title, that’s a natural.) One gentleman (!) complained that women’s washrooms were unsanitary, both in tourist camps and service stations. One party from Poughkeepsie wanted to know why “some measures couldn’t be taken to control your flies and mosquitoes.”
Outside of those who got angry about our poor roads, of which more later, surprisingly few got really hot under the collar. One was ready to have the King dismiss an alleged “Little Napoleon in a big cap” in the Canadian Customs Service, while another had rather pronounced views about a certain outfitting company in Northern Ontario who sold him a boat that “all but fell to pieces.”
One gentleman wrote two pages of polished essay on why a soldier on guard duty at the Fort in Quebec City should not have accepted a fifteen-cent tip. For a British soldier to accept a tip was “an insult to the Empire’s traditions.” Probably it is too late to reply to him now, but it would seem the easiest way of safeguarding that tradition is to refrain from tipping.
Our drinking laws stumped a number of them. A good many agreed with the Englishman who declared the laws were “ridiculous; you may drink only on an empty stomach.” Others were confused with the variation of hours in provinces, and at being able to order a drink on a train for lunch but not for dinner. One, however, would simplify liquor laws by prohibiting liquor: “Can a fellow go on a spree and get drunk on whisky sold by the Canadian Government? If so, the Government is a rotten business.” There was also comment on our laws prohibiting the carrying of firearms. “The only drawback about Canada was that they took my revolver from my tackle box. Just a feeling of security when one is alone in your wonderful country. We allow that in Wisconsin.” Another man separated from his gat thought it was a great “inconvenience,” but “as I believe the law is a good one, I do not criticize it.” There was also persistent criticism of our roads. One man’s car was so badly shaken up that “when we got back to Pennsylvania. I traded in the car and bought a new one. ” Another party fell in love with Quebec Province but cursed her roads as “abominable, and we don't intend to ruin another car another year.” Scores objected indignantly that toll bridges were nuisances that gave them the feeling of being "robbed in a petty way after spending a lot of money to see Canada.” There were pages and pages of really scornful letters, most certainly indicating that this is the major snag in the way of our developing to even greater breadth our valuable tourist industry. Misleading signs, chuck-holes, unmarked turns, slow traffic, cutting in— most of all, just plain bad roads. But it must be added that much of this criticism was about conditions in 1937, and to the extent that the roads have been improved it is therefore unfair. Nor must it be thought that all this criticism was directed at Quebec. The Prairie Provinces took a whack, and so did Ontario’s back-road system.
Praise and Suggestions
SOME of the most outspoken criticism came from the sportsmen; “We had a fine trip. Our two moose are still wandering in your glorious country.” “One week fishing netted us Continued on page 37
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A $300/000,000 Business
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one undersize muskie and three lake trout.” “I enquired where I could catch small-mouth black bass three pounds and over, but you flood me with a lot of circulars, etc., of places that don’t interest me. Where can I catch black bass, three pounds and over?” “Caught all the fish we could eat, which was all we wanted to catch. 1 could eat the views as well. My brotherin-law ate only the fish.” “Your fishing license is too high for the short visitor.” “We went into Quebec for moose and saw nothing but tracks, mostly very old.”
But, notwithstanding the sundry curious kinks and complaints revealed by the letters, their most interesting feature by far is the repeated plea that Canada retain its “foreign” atmosphere and not give in to the American invasion. They seemed to resent any obvious effort on our part to reproduce American conditions, “which are what we go elsewhere to avoid.” Let’s have your own dishes and your own customs, they begged. “Don’t fly American flags over your tourist camps, we get enough of them at home.”
Added to that very pronounced feeling was their repeated testimony that they like our comparatively quiet mode of living. “Please withstand the hell-bent-forleather way of our American life and we’ll come back every year.” They seemed to find in Canada a changed manner of living that enabled them to enjoy a kind of mental inventory of themselves. Some frankly admitted finding inspiration in our invigorating air, the clear-water lakes, the aspens, birches and evergreens. “You unhurriedly enjoy life without rushing to meet it,” and, “It is most refreshing to know there is a land that is sane and sensible and not full of untried, erratic and unworkable schemes.”
The sentiment was expressed about the whole of Canada, but there was a special regard for the Old World atmosphere of Quebec Province. They liked to hear the foreign language, were fascinated by the twisting streets of Old Quebec. Montreal was to them the most cosmopolitan of Canadian cities, and the little old French villages held for the Americans a quaint charm that seemed truly to steal their hearts. The dogcarts and oxen of the Gaspé Peninsula, the procession of carriages going to and from church on Sunday, the bilingual road signs and the rustic rural inns and taverns, were as milk and honey to them after a diet of hardtack and electric-light bulbs. “Don’t, don’t, oh please don’t, modernize Quebec or let American tourists spoil it,” was the actual plea of one writer who unconsciously voiced the general opinion as reflected in thousands of letters.
Which brings us, then, to Callander, along with 400,000 others who will have been there this year. The Bureau has countless letters about the Quints, “those dear little girls, and it is simply wonderful the way the Canadians allow us to look at them free.” We think it is simply wonderful, too, but since they are responsible for about one quarter of Ontario’s $100,000,000 annual tourist revenue, we’ll probably continue to be magnanimous about them.
How the Bureau Works
AND now for those statistics. People often ask how the Travel Bureau arrives at its figures, how the Bureau of Statistics can say that $294,682.000 was spent by tourists in Canada in 1937. Well, it isn’t the guess it might seem to be. Immigration figures easily show the number of entrants of various types (commuters are excluded, of course). Both the United States Department of Commerce and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics collect data annually on per car expenditures of their automobile tourists in Canada and the United States, through
questionnaires handed out by border officials. In the same way. data are secured about those travelling by boat, ferry and train. Distribution methods are designed to ensure adequate seasonal and geographic sampling. The figures secured in this way show how much the various types of tourists spend. All that remains is to relate this information to the known totals of border crossings, and you have the basis for the estimate that 18,248,285 visitors spent $294,682,000 in Canada in 1937.
The Travel Bureau seems to be doing a workmanlike job with what it has to go on. In 1937 its $250,000 budget was allocated to $181,000 spent in advertising, $32,000 for payroll and office administration, $14,000 for printing and paper, $3.000 for “miscellaneous,” and $20,000 as a special grant to aid the Sherbrooke Centenary celebration. (A critic of the Bureau’s expenditure might do well to question the value of grants to municipalities on special occasions.)
In 1938 the Bureau inaugurated an advertising campaign in the United Kingdom costing $20,000, which High Commissioner Vincent Massey and others believed to be very satisfactory. It distributed in 1937 nearly a million road maps and recreational publications. It mailed nearly 200,000 letters and 75,000 parcels, containing about 700,000 pieces of literature, requiring in all 1,722 bags of mail. At the height of the season—May and June -as many as thirty-nine bags of mail were sent out in one day. Besides these, there were 99,221 publications shipped by freight and express. Not a bad turnover for a staff of seventeen. The Bureau has a mailing list of more than 150,000 tourist organizations, boards of trade, and numerous other outlets.
Chief of the Bureau’s publications has been “Canada—Your Friendly Neighbor, Invites You.” This sixty-four-page publication, with brightly colored pictures and well-edited articles, gained noteworthy commendation from travel authorities in many parts of the world, and letters of appreciation sent to the Bureau, numbered many thousands. In 1939 it is to be replaced by a more ambitious four-color publication of sixty pages. These publications are not tossed away by the recipients, but saved for the valuable information they contain, or even placed on living-room tables as a handsome memoir of a Canadian trip.
The Bureau has worked out the number of enquiries per advertisement in every one of the mediums it uses, knows the cost per enquiry down to the decimal point. Thus it can keep refreshing its efforts by shooting them into different mediums as the old ones wear out. It knows by actual count where the tourist business comes from, that New York heads the list with a long lead over Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois, which are closely grouped. Arizona is last. It is also conducting a nationwide inventory to augment its information about what the tourist facilities and attractions are in every town and district. This information will be distributed throughout the provinces to all travel bureaus and associations concerned with tourists.
The Bureau also passes on to the authorities directly interested specific enquiries received from the United States, and the subsequent correspondence and questionnaires. Thus, if a man from Pennsylvania says he’s interested in visiting the Kawartha Lakes, the Travel Bureau at Ottawa sends the letter to the Ontario Bureau at Toronto, which follows up the correspondence. Complaints are also passed along to the responsible authorities.
Thus tourist “joints” reported to be offering inadequate service are checked up and warned that business will not be sent their way if they offend again. If
tourist literature has overrated a fishing area or a piece of scenery, the Bureau gets after those responsible; if a particular section of road is complained of, the Bureau reports the complaint; if a lady has a “gyp job’’ done on her hair in Toronto, the Bureau tells the appropriate people.
If a certain hotelkeeper is charging exorbitant rates he is warned, and asked in the name of common sense to conform to reason. If a gas station in a small border town is reported to he watering its gas, or a garage is operating dishonestly, the local police are notified. The Bureau has frequently been able to retrieve illgotten gains and return them to the tourist, much to the latter’s surprise and delight.
TT WILL be seen that the Bureau's activity is Dominion-wide and of high importance. In some quarters the argument lias been advanced that its function is so vitally important that it should become a separate department of the Government, presided over by a full-time minister. Others argue that to raise the status of the Bureau would not necessarily improve the service it renders, that if there is need for extension of the Bureau’s operations the need can be met by an increased appropriation and extension of its authority.
Being an interested party, Mr. Dolan wisely refuses to comment on suggested changes. When asked if he knew whether the Bureau’s money vote would be increased. he smiled and answered slowly; “I don’t know, but I have hopes.” “Foreign competition,” he went on, “is becoming increasingly tough. Since the establishment of the Canadian Bureau.
there have been established in the United State? fifty-seven tourist bureaus representing foreign countries. These countries are intensifying their efforts to procure a good share of the United States travel expenditure an expenditure which is believed to amount to $680,(XX),(XX) a year in countries other than Canada. Bermuda, for instance, a country of 28.000 people and nineteen square miles, has voted an expenditure in the United States alone in 1939 of $125,000.
“Scandinavia and Switzerland are going after American winter business that we should get, and nearly every State in the Union is spending tremendous sums to capitalize on the great amount of touring energy that is expended, to keep it in the country. California spent in 1937 more than $600,000, Missouri $250,000, Pennsylvania $500,000 in three years, Washington $250,000, and a score of others more than $100,000 each. These appropriations give some idea of the intense competition we face. And it is also significant that the United States Government has recently established a tourist bureau under the chairmanship of the Hon. James W. Gerard, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany. This bureau has been modelled along the lines of our own, in fact they were in correspondence with us about it.”
Mr. Dolan speaks of this competition not with a grudge, but with a light in his eye that indicates he’d like to get in there and fight. Who can blame him?
Editor’s Note: Estimated total expenditure of tourists in Canada during 1938 was $269,000,000, a reduction of $26,000,000 from the previous year.