With many destinations currently unsettled by politically-inspired trauma and the Canadian loonie languishing about a 25 per cent below U.S. equilibrium, there’s never been a better time for a staycation. It’s convenient, then, that this country also happens to be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, which – though centred naturally on July 1 – has inspired a full year-long bonanza of events across the country. Central to the Canada 150 celebration is Parks Canada (PC), a department of the federal government, which is inviting all Canadians to “experience nature and learn more about our history” and, just maybe, discover new places and hidden gems for the first time along the way.
Let’s start with something we don’t hear very often: it’s FREE. It’s true: In 2017, admission fees have been waived to all national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada.
And free or not, Parks Canada reminds that these places “represent the very best that Canada has to offer and tell stories of who we are, including the history, cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples… and help shape the best that Canada can be in the future.”
A host of programs and initiatives have been designed by Parks Canada for the Canada 150 celebration (see “What to do” sidebar) to help Canadians experience their rich heritage “in a special way.”
Who wouldn’t love a day at the park? As such, Parks Canada locations offer a wide range of activities and experiences for different demographics. Prime among them:
Outdoor enthusiasts are a natural fit, and there is an opportunity to let these clients know about new places to explore. For example, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve in Quebec offers spectacular hiking and kayaking opportunities amid colossal limestone outcroppings, while Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan is one of the darkest and largest Dark Sky Preserves in the country.
Families are another key demographic. Many national historic sites offer family-friendly programming, such as Fort Langley National Historic Site in B.C., where kids can try the Xplorers program (available at more than 50 locations across the country!), and the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.
There are also plenty of great opportunities for young Canadians to explore the country. Parks Canada has a website section dedicated to youth, featuring brag-worthy experiences they can try out with friends: http://pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/ experiences/jeunes-youth
Canada is a massive country with many wonderful things to see and do, but sometimes we take for granted options that are close to home because they don’t seem exotic enough. However, the diversity in this country is amazing!
- Suggest new places and experiences in different parts of the country that clients may not have thought about. Parks Canada has created a list of “hidden gems” that can help: www.pc.gc.ca/en/ voyage-travel/conseils-tips/meconnus-gems. Some clients may not always realize that a destination in a another province will give them a completely different experience from what they’re used to.
- Pictures really can speak a thousand words! Showing clients pictures of a destination may inspire them to consider it as a top travel choice.
- Of course, this year, Canada’s 150th is a great selling feature. Why not take the opportunity to encourage clients, as Canadians, to explore our own country? TRADE SECRETS In 2017, admission is free to national parks and historic sites, but normally Parks Canada offers volume discounts for commercial group admissions, ranging from five to 15 per cent off the commercial group rate. For FIT clients, there is a 10 per cent discount off bulk orders of 100 or more daily on national entry passes.
- Planning tools: Start with the recently updated travel trade section at parkscanada.gc.ca/traveltrade. Information is continually added, so check back often. The “Plan Your Visit” section (parkscanada.gc.ca/visit) provides links to book campsites, accommodations, and some experiences; “Travel Tips and Ideas,” gives good information about new experiences to suggest to clients as well as more practical tips, like how to stay safe around wildlife.
- If clients are interested in a specific national park or national historic site, the local websites for those places provide detailed information such as hiking guides, dates and times of tours and programs, what to see and do, and more. A full list of Parks Canada places is found at: www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/ recherche-tous-parks-all.
- Published guides to the National Parks and National Historic Sites can be found at: https://parkscanadashop.ca/collections/ guide-to-parks.
- Contact: Travel agents with questions about places and experiences are invited to contact Parks Canada directly at email@example.com.
WHAT TO DO AT PARKS CANADA LOCATIONS
Parks Canada offers a variety of experiences at national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas across the country.
- Travel agents looking to plan trips for clients can find information curated by region or by type of experience at www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/region and www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/experiences. Other opportunities include: Canadian Signature Experiences: Parks Canada offers eight experiences, such as the Skyline Sunset Hike at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, in various places, and other tourism suppliers offer many more. Go to: http://pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/ experiences/signature-experiences-distinctives.
- LEARN-TO CAMP: Expanded for 2017, this program enables low- to medium-income families to experience the outdoors by introducing first-time campers to the Canadian camping experience.
- INDIGENOUS STORIES AND EXPERIENCES: Parks Canada is working with Indigenous communities near or adjacent to Parks Canada places to develop and deliver 40 interpretive activities or experiences.
- CENTENNIAL OF NATIONAL HISTORIC SITES (NHS100): The centennial of Canada’s historic sites is happening concurrently with Canada 150. The NHS 100 promotes historic sites as unique destinations in 2017.
- CONSERVATION AND SCIENCE: Protecting and promoting ecological integrity is a priority for Parks Canada and this year visitors can help celebrate successes and advance protected areas and biodiversity. Parks Canada is also continuing its partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation to host bio blitzes across Canada.