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Update on travels in North America by the founders of ToundriGo group.

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

More than one year and half after the pandemic, what about travels to Canada and to the United States? What will be the next travel trends? Charles Frobisher and Jean-Christophe Viard, founders of the ToundriGo group share their vision of an industry still standing firm.

The specialist of travels to North America

Welcome to you both, thank you for giving us some of your time to answer to our questions! For the readers who wouldn’t know ToundriGo yet, how would you introduce the group to them in less than one minute?

Charles – After you, JC.

Jean-Christophe – Easy! We are a North American DMC, leader in its field, with a complete range of travelling offers for all professionals in the industry. These offers are based on several key brands:

  • Windigo is specialised in adventure tourism

  • Toundra Voyage is dedicated to FIT sales a la carte

  • Réceptour controls group travels

  • Think Incentive, well… You guessed it!

Charles – That’s it. Historically, the group and its brands have Canadian roots but we have always operated travels in the United States as well as in Canada. In fact, throughout this time of crisis, almost 100% of our incomes came from travels to the United States for American people with more than 100 groups travelling in the United States and in Alaska.

An upcoming recovery of the travels?

So, about that, this crisis seems to slow down, and borders are progressively opening again. Do you think that travellers from other continents are ready and willing to go back to long-haul destinations?

Charles – Some are, some are not, yet. Some of them are still worried, they don’t want to bother taking repetitive COVID tests in airports. I think people will be ready to travel by 2022 but they anticipate and are already gathering information. This is what we can witness in the questions we get from our customers.

Jean-Christophe – That’s true. You also have to consider that, as soon as the Canadian government announced the reopening of the borders on the 7th of September, we observed quite a change in the demand. This change has not been materialized by an increase of bookings yet. Winter 2021-2022 and next summer are though stimulating for future travellers, that’s for sure. Moreover, even if the government might postpone this date, we have absolutely no concerns about an upcoming recovery. We are not in the same situation as in 2020 anymore.

Charles – You only have to look at people’s internet searches on Google Trends to see that requests concerning travelling have really increased since April. So it’s only a matter of time. September will be decisive for travels to Canada as the borders will reopen. As for the United States, everything will depend on the government’s decisions concerning restrictions in place.

Do you think that Canada in particular, as a destination, has a role to play in the recovery to come?

Jean-Christophe – Yes, Canada will play its card right. It’s a safe destination, its population is vaccinated so it will reassure future travellers. When we look at the map, on the opposite side of Canada, unfortunately, South America, Central America, Asia or even Africa do not have the same amount of vaccinated population. Thus, in terms of long-haul destinations that are safe and attractive, Canada definitely has a role to play. We are talking here about wide-open spaces and raw nature away from the crowds so this will attract future travellers a lot. And, let us not forget that it was already the case before COVID 19!

Charles – It’s a destination that ticks all the boxes so our team members are standing by, ready. In fact, new members of staff have been hired lately in order to answer to travel agencies and TO’s requests better. We are not the only ones to do so in Montréal’s area, which is a good sign. We have all been eagerly waiting for the reopening of the borders in order to recruit again and that is what we did and are doing.

Jean-Christophe – Exactly. The idea is to be ready to cope with a potential wave of requests so we are getting ourselves prepared. We make it a point of honor to be available and attentive to the suppliers’ needs as well as those of our customers and travellers.

Zoom on the latest trends

Talking about the need for safety, you seem to be naturally identifying a new trend of travels. For you, what are the other trends that are going to impact North-American tourism these next few years?

Jean-Christophe – Well, behind the current health crisis, the ecological crisis is still here. The latest IPCC report is sadly overwhelming. In the industry, all the parties involved have a rapidly increasing awareness on this issue. I am talking about our suppliers, our collaborators but also about our customers, travellers, etc. This will have an impact on demands. Demands will now favor actors who are aware of this ecological challenge and who will include as many eco-friendly components as possible in their travels. It will obviously be a serious call when the COVID crisis will end.

CharlesTravelling less but longer. For me, this is the next change in behaviour that we will observe. It’s in the same spirit as trends like “staycation”, “slow tourism” or “flygskam” described in the media. It’s a result of our health and environmental current situation: in both cases, there is an idea of closeness and sustainability. I simply think that people will travel less often but that, when they travel far, they will stay longer and will favor a restful pace and eco-responsible options.

Jean-Christophe – It also means staying four nights instead of two sometimes in the same location or favouring local providers, or reducing the use of plastic during the stay, or choosing an electrical vehicle and such. In fact, on this last element, Canada has access to hydraulic electricity so there are important plans from the government to electrify road transports.

Some of our tours, here at ToundriGo, already incorporate that. The summer 2022 GIR is completely following this perspective. It is a production turn that will be gradual, but we want and will go in this direction for sure.

Charles – Beyond the ecological question, I think there is also a trend consisting in escaping in nature, to go outside urban paths. Ultimately, either on length or on destination, we will have more and more long “Nature breaks” stays instead of two days “City breaks”.

Jean-Christophe – And refundable nature as a matter of fact! The travellers’ need for flexibility in refunds is still here and will still be here after COVID.

So, if we sum up, travellers will be looking for a safe destination, a responsible, local and close to nature area and they will probably travel longer. Isn’t it a search for authenticity in a way?

Charles – Yes, in opposition to mass tourism in which the experience is not unique enough for travellers. It is nearly more of a search for uniqueness actually. We see that in the local stays trend (greeters and coach surfing for example) and in the fact that unusual accommodations are requested a lot (glamping, cabins in the trees, yurts, home exchanges…).

At ToundriGo, we precisely work with a wide network of suppliers to offer small charming accommodations and unique travel experiences to agencies.

Confidence and leap into the future!

You said you have already started to work according to these trends in order to adapt your travel offers. Would you say that you are confident with the upcoming end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022?

Jean-Christophe – We are very confident on the long term on all branches of our activities: group, FIT, incentive and adventure travels. That’s the reason why our teams have been preparing and have been working on the catalogue for winter 2021 and summer 2022 (coming soon). We also have a lot of possibilities in FIT this autumn with nice outdoor excursions to be discovered in our last newsletter. Our team really got excellent feedbacks on our Quebec on its own extraordinary travel!

Charles – About adventure tourism, the offer was already trending from the beginning. People will just go for this closer-to-nature kind of travels more in the future. The next adventure travel that I personally recommend is the discovery of Mount Uapishka in winter, in small groups. Snowshoeing, ski, wintery camp as explorers: it’s a beautiful and unique experience very appreciated by the travellers.

Is there one trip you are particularly proud of or that is often booked?

Charles – I cannot name just one, that is impossible. There are too many favourites: Alaska, Vancouver by bike, outdoor travel in the United States… Our stay in Cap au Leste is also a beautiful one and it’s in fact one of our most booked trips during winter season.

Jean-Christophe – A lot of activities at the foot of Monts-Valins, an exceptional view on the fjord… It’s true that this stay seduces everyone, us first!

How tempting! One last word?

Jean-Christophe – It’s only a matter of time before we see the curves on graphs go up for good. We are here, strong and united with our partners and suppliers. We went through this crisis and our teams are ready to serve the professionals of the tourism industry!

Charles – It’s a message of trust that we are sending today, really. Travels in North America are definitely not ready to stop!

Thank you both for this conversation on the topic of travels ! To reach ToundriGo, it’s right here:!

Don’t forget to follow all the latest news about the group on LinkedIn!

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