Traditionally, most Canadian advertisements designed to attract U.S. tourists have accented Canada’s scenic attractions. But when Ottawa launches a major $15-million advertising campaign in March, it will try to convince Americans to experience a different aspect of the country: the streets of Canadian cities. The campaign consists primarily of six upbeat television commercials which stress that there is more to Canada than “moose, mountains and Mounties,” according to Patrick Lennon, acting director general of marketing for Tourism Canada. But even though the planned campaign has already generated enthusiasm within the Canadian tourism industry, critics have attacked it as blatant Tory patronage. The reason: the government gave the contract to Toronto advertising agency Camp Associates Advertising Ltd., established by former Conservative party president Dalton Camp and now run by Norman Atkins, chairman of the Conservatives’ 1984 election campaign.
Ottawa’s initiative is the result of a $1.2-million government study last year which showed that Americans were unaware of Canada’s urban attractions. But the government also hopes to revitalize Canada’s tourism industry, which is growing at a slower rate than that of almost any other industrialized country. Between 1972 and 1983 the industry experienced a mere eight-per-cent growth to $18.5 billion. In the same period Canada’s share of
travel dollars from countries whose citizens travel frequently declined to three per cent from almost five.
Lennon told Maclean's that the traditional selling points will not be abandoned. He said, “We won’t throw away the outdoors, because you don’t throw away business that you already have.” But the TV commercials, which will appear in all major U.S. cities for at least a year, will extensively promote the virtues of Canada’s cities. As well, ads in large-circulation U.S. magazines will point out the advantages of the weak Canadian dollar to Americans, of whom an average 175,000 per day visited Canada in 1983.
Although the industry has applauded the increased government interest in tourism, some spokesmen say that it is not a complete solution because high Canadian taxes on liquor, gasoline and airline tickets keep visitors away. Meanwhile, Ottawa had to deal with further criticism which erupted last week when the 160,000-member Public Service Alliance of Canada charged that the ad campaign will cost more than previous ones. The reason, according to the union: Camp Associates will assume many of the public relations and planning responsibilities previously handled by the department of regional industrial expansion, which includes Tourism Canada—even as the department prepares to cut 15 jobs from its communications branch.
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