MONTREAL, Sept. 27 (Reuters) – Canada is trying to use the lure of travel benefits to convince America’s frequent flyer elite to fly north with Air Canada (AC.TO), as the country steps up its efforts to revive crucial traffic from the United States to the United States, a Canadian official said.
COVID-19 has affected travel from Canada’s largest tourism market. In the first half of 2021, Canada recorded just about 178,000 overnight arrivals from the United States, up from 6.8 million during the same period in 2019, according to government data.
To help reverse the drop, the government tourism organization Destination Canada launched its first campaign on Monday targeting frequent travelers in the United States, in partnership with the country’s largest carrier.
It is part of a broader C $ 14 million ($ 11.2 million) effort by the Tourism Commission to increase traffic after Canada recently opened its borders to vaccinated travelers. It is not known how much the specific loyalty campaign will cost.
“It’s super focused in terms of our ability to reach frequent travelers,” Gloria Loree, Destination Canada’s marketing director, told Reuters before the launch.
Under the plan, up to 20,000 US frequent flyers with carriers like American Airlines (AAL.O), Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) could achieve corresponding status when they fly with Air Canada north of the border. .
Delta declined to comment and American Airlines did not immediately respond.
Southwest, which does not serve Canada directly, said by email that the support from the government branch is helping the industry’s collective efforts “to restart substantial air travel.”
Frequent flyer status provides travelers with benefits such as priority boarding that would normally cost a premium fare or fee.
Although status matching is common among airlines, Destination Canada said it was the first time a tourism organization has used the practice to attract tourists to its country.
“This is the push to get them to come to Canada,” Loree said.
Eligible U.S. frequent flyers who book and travel north on AC before Jan. 15, 2022 will retain their status with the carrier for the full year of 2022, she said.
It comes as countries ease restrictions on international travel, with the United States set to reopen in November to vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries. Read more
Loree said the frequent flyer status match funding is no different from other incentives paid by Destination Canada, such as a separate campaign this year with Air Canada’s rival WestJet Airlines.
Loree said the goal is to restore routes from the United States, while trying to attract returning travelers to Canada.
In April, hard-hit Air Canada received government aid estimated at C $ 5.9 billion ($ 4.7 billion), with the country acquiring an approximate 6% stake in the carrier. Read more
While Canada’s high vaccination rate could reassure tourists, the cost of the country’s COVID-19 PCR testing requirements for arrivals could deter some travelers, said Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management from Ryerson University.
Loree said targeting American frequent flyers is a plus as they are largely used to these requirements.
“They figured out how to travel,” Loree said. “So we want them to consider Canada as their next trip.”
Air Canada shares closed 3.48% higher in Toronto trading.
($ 1 = 1.2652 Canadian dollars)
Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago Editing by Denny Thomas, Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis
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