To say COVID has had a monstrous impact on small businesses in tourism would be a massive understatement.
To put it bluntly, 2020 and 2021 were a shitshow and we are fully expecting and preparing for the 2022 tourism season to be somewhat similar. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are still beacons of opportunity shining through the cracks waiting for someone to identify and latch onto.
So what trends are we expecting to impact Windsor-Essex tourism in 2022?
1. Experiential tourism is far from new and has been happening for many years now, but it’s still growing.
Did you know that 73% of our vivid memories come from first-time experiences or unique events? This is an important cue for companies looking to make themselves memorable to customers who have been experience-deprived during the pandemic.
So, what exactly is experiential tourism? For WindsorEats, we believe it’s about engaging, educating, inspiring and evoking emotions. It’s about taking our guests beyond the traditional tourist activities and immersing guests within the stories themselves versus just having them being spoken to, creating and building emotional connections between you, your story, your product and your guests.
WindsorEats has continually developed new experiential tourism products and are continually educating ourselves. Now we’re expanding on that process even more and have begun taking our years of experience, finalizing a complete Experiential Tourism Masterclass to help other tourism partners to develop or elevate their own experiences based on their unique story.
2. Destination DNA is vital.
So, what exactly is a destination’s DNA? According to Destination Think, who have trademarked the term, Place DNA:
Simply stated, a destination’s DNA is the definition of its intrinsic character, the meaning that people ascribe to it, or more often, a mixture of both elements…the DNA definition of your place is the essential authenticity test for all your marketing. A destination’s messaging must match its Place DNA®.
An issue with many DMO’s across the world is they attempt to market themselves to be everything to everyone and, in the process, lose sight of what truly makes them unique.
We think it’s absolutely great to be niche. In fact it’s encouraged, because when you try to be everything to everyone, you become nothing to no one.
The belief that WindsorEats, and many tourism experts around the globe follow, is that identifying and embracing your unique selling proposition is key to paving the roadway to success. Focus on what truly separates you from the crowd and absolutely own it.
Through our research, WindsorEats has identified a unique tourism identifier that can set us apart, making us a top of mind destination is….whisky
Whisky tourism is booming and as a result, since 2015 WindsorEats’ goal has been to create a foundation of whisky experiences complementing our region’s unique DNA and history through developing experiential tourism, marketing and branding Windsor as Whiskytown Canada.
3. Revenge travel could potentially be a major issue for Windsor-Essex
What is Revenge Travel? It’s the act of making up for lost time, as well as lost opportunities. With so many birthdays, weddings, honeymoons, and vacations having been missed out on during the pandemic, many people are looking to make up for all the things we missed and the lost time and they’re expected to strike back with a vengeance to check off their bucket lists.
In an effort to “get back at” the pandemic that has stolen two years of our lives, celebration trips are expected to come back with a force. A recent survey by The Vacationer found that more than a quarter of people plan to travel more than they used to post‑Covid and another report from Tripadvisor, revealed that more than a third of travellers say travelling to a destination they have not previously visited is more important now than ever before.
People exploring in this instance might not be a good thing for Windsor-Essex. We could see a struggle in attracting Ontarians from north of Chatham. There’s also a belief that American visitors from Michigan and Ohio will be very slow returning which could result in a reduced number of visitors to our region. Throw in that Windsorites will likely be escaping to other destinations to achieve their own revenge travel and it doesn’t paint the prettiest of pictures for local tourism businesses.
4. Great Lakes cruising is about to boom.
WindsorEats has been dealing with cruise ship dockings in Windsor and Detroit for over 10 years now and we see this as a missed opportunity as well as a potential one to redeem ourselves.
The big players in the industry are bullish on Great Lakes cruising. 2022 should see the start of a massive boom in Great Lakes cruising with 6 brands scheduled to set sail this Spring and Summer with many others in the process of completing or starting new ship builds just for it. This includes French luxury brand Ponant as well as Viking Cruise Lines, who just recently brought a luxury ship to the region complete with 2 of its own submarines. In the next couple of years we will also see National Geographic and Ritz Carlton enter Great Lakes. Estimates put passenger capacity up approximately 40% for 2022.
It’s extremely vital to know that these cruise ships are not a one-size fits all solution, as they each want to be able to offer something truly unique and exclusive for their customers. It is integral to be in tune with what their needs are. As an example, we have the great award-winning EPIC wine region here, but when the ships are already docking in Niagara and visiting wineries there. Offering a repeat experience isn’t going to do you well in attracting dockings and excursions. The focus has got to be about what the customer wants and not what meets your wants.
Within these trends, Windsor-Essex has an opportunity to reinvent itself and its image post pandemic. We need to build a structure that positively showcases our tourism champions, not just to visitors, but also to other tourism partners while providing them with a path to achieve the same success and exposure through training and development. It’s about raising not just our ceiling, but more importantly, also our floor.
As the founder and co-owner of WindsorEats and past Tourism Champion of the Year for Ontario, Adriano Ciotoli is a food and drink tourism expert with a proven track record of helping organizations and businesses generate new and increased revenue through enhanced experiences and marketing.
On top of talking the talk and helping others, Adriano also walks the walk, creating many unforgettable, immersive experiences through WindsorEats, that his guests rave about, including the Wine Trail Ride cycling tours, named best culinary tourism experience in Ontario, and the Drinks of Walkerville, named an Ontario Signature Experience.
WindsorEats, which he founded and co-owns with his sister, Pina, is a past winner of the Culinary Tourism Leadership Award by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, Innovator of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, and more recently, the Best Small-Medium Sized Tourism Business in Canada by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. Adriano was also named one of the Top 40 Under 40 within the Canadian Tourism Industry by Canadian Traveller magazine.