Key Visitor Activities and Experiences

We’ve uncovered the latest research reports and studies from around the world and put together a summary of insights based on the activities and experiences visitors love most about South Eastern Ontario. Use these insights to tailor your products and experiences and spark creative dialogue!

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Food and Drink

Market Performance

Approximately one fifth of spending ($3.56 billion) by international travellers in Canada is on food and beverages.

In 2013 the food tourism industry was estimated to be worth US $150 billion. The global food tourism market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 9% during the period 2019-2023.

Consumer Insights

The World Food Travel Association describes food tourism (culinary/gastronomy) simply as " the act of travelling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place."
Food travellers are looking for authentic, eclectic and local foods. These travellers are adventurous, they want to explore and get off the beaten track in order to discover new and unique food experiences.
The activities food travellers engage in include the following: visiting cooking schools, participating in food/wine/brewery tours, shopping in local grocery or gourmet stores, participating in wine/beer/spirits tastings and dining in unique food establishments.
In South Eastern Ontario, the top three food & drink tourism activities travellers engage in include the following: visiting local restaurants, participating in food/wine/brewery tours and visiting a farm/farmer’s market. Visiting a winery and participating in wine/food tours are within the top five primary travel motivators.
It’s estimated that around one-quarter of all trip spending is on food and drink; this estimate increases by at least 10% for more expensive destinations and reduces by the same amount for more affordable ones. After accommodations, food & drink represents the next highest impact area based on traveller spend in South Eastern Ontario.
Social media plays a major role in marketing and traveller decision-making; this is especially true when it comes to food tourism. The role of visuals and imagery on social media channels cannot be understated. Strong visuals (including short videos) that show authentic and local experiences are more likely to be shared and liked; leading to action.
According to the World Food Travel Association, businesses and destinations can improve food tourism by ensuring experiences match visitor expectations. For example, businesses need to not only serve a product or menu item but also create an experience around it.
Sources: Destination Canada, World Food Travel Association, South Eastern Ontario Consumer Insights Survey (2018, 2019), Skift

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Outdoor Activities

Market Performance

The global market for outdoor activities is massive and it represents an important opportunity for growth.
Adventure tourism was valued at US $263 billion in 2013. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 45.73% during the period 2018-2022.
Consumer Insights

According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, “To meet the definition of adventure travel, a trip must take an individual outside of his or her regular environment for more than 24 hours—and for no longer than one consecutive year—and include at least two of the following three aspects: participation in a physical activity, a visit to a natural environment and a culturally immersive experience.”
In South Eastern Ontario, outdoor activities encompass a vast array of experiences that tend be geared towards soft adventure, such as: boating, cruising, fishing, paddling, scuba, fresh-water sailing.
Travellers cite that the natural beauty, attractiveness of the region, beaches, waterfront and lakes are top reasons for enjoying their trips to South Eastern Ontario. In addition to the natural environment, travellers are primarily motivated by culture and food & drink.
When it comes to cycling, Ontario residents account for the vast majority of visits and spending. Cycling visitors participate in a variety of outdoor activities such as visiting a beach, hiking, and boating while in Ontario.
Trail visitors are defined as those who visit a national, provincial or nature park, go hiking or backpacking, go wildlife viewing or bird watching, go camping, go cycling, go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, go snowmobiling and ATVing. Trail visitors are most likely to go hiking, camping, visit a national/provincial/nature park, and beach.
Canada’s attractiveness as an adventure destination amongst US adventure travellers is strong. The most popular activity US adventure travellers undertake is backpacking/hiking/trekking.
Sources: Destination Canada, South Eastern Ontario Consumer Insights Survey (2018, 2019), Adventure Travel Trade Association, Statistics Canada

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Entertainment, Heritage and Culture

Market Performance

The cultural sector is a major component of tourism in Ontario. In 2014, there were 12.3 million cultural visits in Ontario, representing 8.8% of total visits in Ontario. Cultural visitors spent $6.5 billion, accounting for 27% of total visitor spending in Ontario. An important aspect of cultural tourism is the live music sector; it generates $455 million in revenues and contributes $252 million annually to the Canadian economy.

Consumer Insights

The Association for Leisure and Tourism Education defines cultural tourism as “the movement of persons to cultural attractions (such as heritage sites, artistic and cultural manifestations, arts and drama) in cities in other countries than their normal place of residence, with the intention to gather new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs.”
Entertainment, heritage and culture tourism is everything from visiting galleries, attending concerts, plays or theatre performances, visiting museums and historic sites, indigenous events and unique festivals and fairs to a city’s way of life.
The data shows that cultural travellers stay longer (average number of nights spent on cultural visits was 5.0 vs. 3.1 nights for all Ontario travel), and they spend significantly more at an average of $527/trip compared to $171/trip for total trips.
The top activities Ontario cultural visitors participated in were attending a performance such as a play or concert, visiting a historic site, visiting a museum/art gallery, and visiting a festival/fair.
Culture and heritage activities such as visiting small towns and villages, historical sights and shopping made the top 10 most popular activities undertaken on South Eastern Ontario leisure trips. Visiting small towns and villages was most likely to be undertaken by those aged +55.
Travellers aged 18-24 are more likely to attend a music festival and concert. Research has shown that festivals and events have been successful at motivating travellers to visit cities they may not have otherwise, thereby dispersing visitors across a destination or region. However, they are often most successful when linked to the community and local traditions – thereby providing an authentic experience.
Ontario residents accounted for the majority of cultural visits, followed by the US, overseas and other Canada travellers. Overseas visitors accounted for almost half of all cultural spending, followed by Ontario residents, US and other Canada travellers.
US cultural travellers are more likely to come from Mid Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) and East North Central states (Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin).
Sources: Destination Canada, Statistics Canada, Association for Leisure and Tourism Education, South Eastern Ontario Consumer Insights Survey (2018, 2019)

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