Business events and business travel represent 40% of our industry. That would be the equivalent of the entire tourism industry in Ontario. If we took Ontario out of the equation, what would that look like for our industry here in Canada?
Business events book out several years in advance—in fact, up to 10 years in advance. The business events that have been on the books coming out of the last few years are events that were re-booked because they had been booked during the pandemic. Looking forward in our calendars to 2025, 2026, 2027 and beyond, we are very thin on the bookings here in Canada.
Part of that is reputationally related. Is Canada still hard to get to? Are we still a difficult country to get into?
We've been working very closely with IRCC on visitor visas for business events and trying to get that system streamlined, but it is still causing a challenge.
We've been working very closely with CBSA on their CARM initiative and making sure that a regulation that was meant for new product coming into the country didn't adversely affect product coming into the country on a temporary basis.
It is an important part of our business in that it's extending the shoulder season, as you correctly said. Business events tend to take place in the fall—I'm in Vancouver today because I am attending a business event—and in the spring. These are the months when hotels would typically be slower than they would be in the high season of the summer.
They're an incredibly important part, but they also contribute to the wealth and well-being of the local communities they come into. They are vital for helping to keep businesses like restaurants and retail open and profitable.
Not only do we need to continue to market and promote Canada as a destination of choice for business events, but we need to make sure that the processes around how those delegates come into the country are streamlined and working properly.
Modernization at our border and access into our country is another area where we would like to see technology become more a part of the process for getting folks into and out of the country. Things like biometrics and digital passport controls are technologies that are being used in other countries around the world and in some places within our own competitive set. It would certainly help to elevate Canada as a destination for business events in the future.