Canadian at Par

Northern Outdoors

Objectives:

  • Avoid any further decline in Canadian visitors during the 2016 whitewater rafting season
  • Generate media coverage for the “Canadian Currency at Par” offering in major daily newspapers across Canada

Situation Analysis:
Northern Outdoors is located along the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway in The Forks, Maine. Traditionally, Canadian residents make up a significant portion of the adventure resort’s white water rafting customer base. However, like much of the Maine tourism industry, Northern Outdoors had begun to see a drop in Canadian bookings over the last couple of years due to the weak Canadian dollar. As summer 2016 approached, the value of the Canadian dollar hovered around 78 cents, presenting the risk that even more Canadian visitors would not travel across the border to visit Northern Outdoors due to the added expense.

Looking at data from past years compiled by the Maine Office of Tourism, it was evident that this risk was very real, and it had already taken a big toll on the state’s tourism industry overall. There were approximately 5.5 million Canadian visitors in 2013. By 2015, after the Canadian dollar weakened, that number dropped to 4.1 million. Likewise, spending dropped from $1.3 billion to just over $850 million during that same time period.

To avoid the loss of more business, Northern Outdoors created a special “Canadian Currency at Par” program for the 2016 Penobscot rafting season. The program honored Canadian currency at a 1:1 rate against the U.S. dollar for both rafting trips and lodging at its resorts. This represented a significant discount of nearly 25 percent for the Canadians. Now all Northern Outdoors had to do was get the word out. The resort worked with Nancy Marshall Communications (NMC) to generate media coverage on the offering as part of the agency’s monthly fee for ongoing public relations.

Methods:
NMC drafted a press release highlighting the program, underlining the significant discount it provided. The timeline was tight, but within two days the agency had finalized the press release and was pitching to Canadian media. Because Northern Outdoors needed to get the word out fast, NMC put its sights on one prolific Canadian travel writer, Rochelle Lash, who appears regularly in five of Canada’s most-read daily newspapers. NMC personally reached out to Lash, and her interest was piqued. The press release was issued in mid-April and Lash’s articles appeared at the beginning of July, just in time for white water rafting’s high season.

Results:
The media relations initiative was a huge success. Lash’s feature article appeared in the print edition of the Montreal Gazette, as well as the online editions of the Montreal Gazette, The Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, The Edmonton Journal, and the Windsor Star. The coverage garnered 421,000 print impressions and a combined online impact of 3,647,000 unique visitors. It included visibility in four provinces, stretching from Canada’s west coast to the east and including five major Canadian DMAs. As of August 31, Northern Outdoors has seen no decline in its number of Canadian guests. Northern Outdoors President Russell Walters attributes much of this to the great media coverage the Canadian Currency at Par offering received.