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17 min

Live From IPW: The Travel Love Story of America & Canada with Audrey Tanguay Beaudette and Casey Canevari

Mark sits down with Audrey and Casey to hear stories about Brand USA's recent MegaFam from Canada. We also get an update about Air Canada and details about Brand USA’s Canada Connect. Audrey Tanguay Beaudette is Air Canada's Manager for Global Sales and Tourism Partnerships. Casey Canevari is Brand USA's Senior Manager for Global Trade Development for Canada.

"MegaFam, we're taking the actual travel agents, so those that are actively engaging with their clientele, and bring them to new destinations that are unfamiliar, so they can come back with new experiences and have something to sell to their client that is different and unique that they may not have experienced before."

Intro: Recorded live at our IPW podcast studio in Los Angeles, California: welcome to Brand USA Talks Travel. This is your all-access pass to hear from top industry leaders, exploring the vital topics and exciting prospects shaping travel in 2024 and beyond. Now, here's your host, Mark Lapidus.

Mark Lapidus [0:19]: There's a natural love between America and Canada. I think it's more than proximity, what do you think?

Casey Canevari [0:25]: I have to agree. I definitely think it is more than proximity.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [0:27]: I would say it's proximity.

Casey Canevari [0:30]: She's also from Quebec, though.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [0:32]: I am from Quebec. We're very particular there.

Mark Lapidus [0:34]: And you speak French, too, right?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [0:35]: I do. It's my first language.

Mark Lapidus [0:36]: Therefore, I'm going to ask you to pronounce your last name, because I'm notorious for butchering last names in English, let alone in French.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [0:43]: Of course. It's "Tanguay Beaudette."

Mark Lapidus [0:45]: I would have so ruined that.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [0:47]: I've gotten a lot of "Tanguy" and "Budette."

Mark Lapidus [0:50]: Can you say it?

Casey Canevari [0:51]: Audrey Tanguay is what I started with. Beaudette... Yes, not good either.

Mark Lapidus [0:55]: I'm delighted to welcome Air Canada's Manager for Global Sales and Tourism, Audrey, whose last name I can't pronounce. Say it again.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [1:02]: Tanguay Beaudette.

Mark Lapidus [1:03]: There we go. I'm also excited to have Casey Canevari. I said your name right, didn't I?

Casey Canevari [1:07]: You got it. You nailed it.

Mark Lapidus [1:08]: I'd better, he'd kill me. He's Brand USA Senior Manager for Global Trade Development for Canada. Welcome, both of you, to Brand USA Talks Travel.

Casey Canevari [1:15]: Well, thanks for having us, Mark.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [1:16]: Thank you.

Mark Lapidus [1:17]: Casey, congratulations on a successful Canada MegaFam.

Casey Canevari [1:20]: Well, thank you. Actually, you know what, Mark, that successful MegaFam was definitely in part because of Air Canada as well. I just want to make sure that we recognize that.

Mark Lapidus [1:27]: Of course. That's why Audrey is sitting here. Give me a 30 second description of a MegaFam first, for someone just coming into travel and tourism. Not everybody knows what they are.

Casey Canevari [1:35]: MegaFams are a Brand USA trademark event, started about 11 years ago when Brand USA was created. What we do is, we take travel agents from all different places, in this case, I'll mention Canada. We took them from eight different provinces, and we put them on itineraries that are all happening simultaneously in different destinations within the market.

Mark Lapidus [1:53]: How's a Product FAM different?

Casey Canevari [1:55]: Product FAM is when you're actually bringing in those that create product for specific organizations organizations, like tour operators. They're coming in and learning about destinations to build new entities that they can then package and sell. MegaFam, we're taking the actual travel agents, so those that are actively engaging with their clientele, and bring them to new destinations that are unfamiliar, so they can come back with new experiences and have something to sell to their client that is different and unique that they may not have experienced before.

Mark Lapidus [2:22]: Got it. I didn't even ask you, how have you been enjoying IPW?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [2:25]: I love it. It's my favorite trade show, and I do a lot of trade shows, including some in Canada and then some internationally, and IPW is definitely very high scale.

Mark Lapidus [2:33]: What are a few of the highlights for you?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [2:35]: Meeting with the partners. For me, it's all about building relationships. The time I've been spending with Casey, for instance, or some of the top US destinations that we fly to, it's invaluable time. Really, it's the meeting and the connections that we're making with the partners here.

Mark Lapidus [2:48]: Would you have said that about Casey if he wasn't sitting right in front of you?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [2:51]: I would have said the exact same thing.

Casey Canevari [2:53]: I actually paid her to say it.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [2:54]: No, you didn't.

Mark Lapidus [2:56]: How about your IPW? How's it going?

Casey Canevari [2:58]: This is great. This is actually, believe it or not, just my second IPW that I've ever attended. So San Antonio was my first last year. I love the buzz that's created when you're here and all the partners you get to meet. And I've spent actually quite a bit of time walking the floor in between appointments to make sure that I am going to see some of our city and state partners as well.

Mark Lapidus [3:14]: It's a beautiful floor this year. I got to say, people have really been investing in these booths.

Casey Canevari [3:18]: They certainly have.

Mark Lapidus [3:18]: Audrey, what motivated Air Canada to partner with Brand USA for the Canada MegaFam, and what were the key benefits you obtained?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [3:25]: You cannot do a MegaFam like this with any destination. You really need to have a partner, and that's what we have in Brand USA, is a true partnership. You have to make sure that you trust the partner and that they're willing to put in the work, and that's what we've had with Brand USA, so thank you so much to Brand USA and Casey, and more specifically, the Canada team. For us, the benefit of doing this was really to be showcasing our network. I don't know if you know, but we're the carrier that has the most transborder flights, and so we wanted to showcase our network.

Mark Lapidus [3:54]: What does that mean? Explain that to me a little bit.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [3:56]: So from Canada, we're the carrier that has the most transborder flights. And so between Canada and the US, we operate the most services in between the two countries. The other thing we wanted to showcase is also the strength of our joint venture partner with United Airlines. Our joint venture partner with United Airlines was something that we wanted to showcase, so Air Canada provided the flights from Canada to the US and then from the US back to Canada. But internally, domestically in the US, we also needed to get United Airlines involved. And that's why we wanted to showcase our joint venture partner with them as well.

Mark Lapidus [4:31]: Is that difficult to do? I would think you guys are often competing with each other, no?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [4:34]: No, we've been working on that joint venture for 25 years now. We need them to be able to carry our passengers where we don't have the service. So they've been incredible to work with.

Casey Canevari [4:44]: It makes it a bit of a seamless integration when you're leaving from Canada to fly into more destinations in the States.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [4:50]: Definitely. And so we wanted to showcase this, and some of the benefits that we've been getting from this is those top travel agents that we brought from Canada, they've experienced our network, our product on board. We wanted them to think about Air Canada when they're selling the US. We're really hoping that moving forward, because of that Brand USA MegaFam, they'll associate us directly with the US.

Mark Lapidus [5:12]: Casey, how does Brand USA select the participating travel agents from MegaFams?

Casey Canevari [5:16]: Well, for this one, we put them through the ringer a little bit, to be honest.

Mark Lapidus [5:19]: Jumping jacks?

Casey Canevari [5:21]: I'd set, actually, four criteria that we had for it, and worked this out with Audrey and Katie and our team as well. They had to sell four round-trip tickets within a certain time through into the United States on Air Canada.

Mark Lapidus [5:32]: How did they prove that?

Casey Canevari [5:33]: We have massive spreadsheets that Katie from our team and I had put together.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [5:37]: And our team validated the P&Rs.

Mark Lapidus [5:39]: Oh, cool.

Casey Canevari [5:40]: So we had these agents put in the P&Rs as passenger name records, and then we had to go ahead and send them over to Air Canada to be verified. Labor of love, if you will, Mark. They also had to be IATA agents. They had to go ahead and complete badges on our USA Discovery program, which is our travel agent training tool.

Mark Lapidus [5:55]: New program coming, by the way.

Casey Canevari [5:57]: Nice hook there, I learned that. Perfect.

Mark Lapidus [5:58]: Thank you.

Casey Canevari [5:59]: They had to go ahead and get the badges. I verified all the badges as well to make sure. It was a lot of communications back and forth with the agents to keep them moving forward through the process. And I made them write an essay as to why they wanted to participate.

Mark Lapidus [6:10]: Like they're in high school?

Casey Canevari [6:11]: Like they're in high school.

Mark Lapidus [6:11]: How'd that go?

Casey Canevari [6:12]: It was great. I read every single one of the essays, which was fantastic.

Mark Lapidus [6:15]: Did you grade them like you were a school teacher?

Casey Canevari [6:17]: No, it wasn't that particular.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [6:19]: Close enough.

Casey Canevari [6:20]: It did help, though, because we did ask them which itinerary they wanted to be on, so of the six. Then obviously, we can't give everybody their first choice, but what was written in the essays was part of how we picked out two different itineraries that we needed to put people on.

Mark Lapidus [6:32]: Audrey, what role did Air Canada play in the planning and execution of the MegaFam?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [6:36]: We helped in, I guess, designing a little bit of the itineraries, because we needed the itineraries and the flights to coordinate with where we have enough capacity. With Casey and the Brand USA team, we worked with our revenue management team and the work planning team to identify key destinations that we wanted to be part of the itineraries. Then we work with our groups team to hold all of the seats. Then we work with our internal sales team to figure out some of the agents that are going to be coming on the Fam. And then finally, which was, I guess, the biggest part, was finding and getting all of the agents booked via the connecting flights. That was quite the challenge.

Mark Lapidus [7:15]: This is more work than I imagined.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [7:17]: Canada is huge, so we needed them. Some of those agents were coming from regional areas or provinces within Canada, and they needed to get to Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal, which is where the itinerary is, where they're departing from. And so managing all of those connecting flights and making sure that the agents were happy with their schedule, it was quite the journey and quite the process, but it went really, really well. And we also made sure that they had a good experience. We provided them Maple Leaf Lounge access so that they can rest in between their flights.

Casey Canevari [7:46]: They were treated very well. And still, Audrey said, too, just wanted to add and tack on a little bit there - Canada is huge. And we had agents from coast to coast, in provinces that were far and few between, and not a lot of people go to them. It was a labor of love, as I like to say.

Mark Lapidus [8:03]: How do we measure success? This is always the million dollar question pretty much for every podcast that I do.

Casey Canevari [8:08]: Well, I encourage everyone to actually take a Google search and look up MegaFam Canada and look at all the travel trade press that we actually did get. We were really strategic. We brought actually some of the travel trade and put them on the itineraries so they could experience it as well. I've also, Mark, gotten a considerable amount of emails from agents that have already booked their clients from post-MegaFam, which just wrapped up, actually, just last month. That's a big win for me there for sure. The other thing, too, about measuring success, what we're doing is, and what we feel like, is we're creating brand ambassadors for the United States. We're taking these agents who are really good at their jobs, taking them into new places, giving them new experiences. Then they go home, they talk within their network, they get their clients, and it just actually organically grows.

Mark Lapidus [8:50]: It's amazing how much of the world is still word of mouth.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [8:53]: Amazing. Yeah. And on our end, it's more of a long-term process. We are able to see how those agents started booking more of the US, and if there's been a growth in terms of market share or if they've been selling more of the US versus another destination. Over time, we go back and we look at the sales performance from those specific travel agencies that were invited. And this is one of the way that we measure the success.

Mark Lapidus [9:19]: This is a not-so-fancy way of saying data collection.

Casey Canevari [9:21]: Yeah, it is.

Mark Lapidus [9:24]: What feedback have you received from the participating travel agents about their experience with Air Canada during the MegaFam?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [9:30]: We've had people crying. We've had people telling us how grateful they were for that MegaFam. Actually, someone in Casey and I's itinerary was telling us how generous we have been throughout this whole experience. Some other destination actually charged to participate in a MegaFam, or in a FAM period. They were amazed by the organization, the itineraries, and how generous Air Canada and Brand USA were in making sure that they enjoyed their experience. Some of them came to us with a little tears in their eyes, saying, I've never witnessed this. The positive feedback that we've received was out of control.

Casey Canevari [10:09]: I completely agree. I mean, there were agents said this is the best FAM they've ever been on, by far. And these are agents that have been doing this work for 25, 30 years.

Mark Lapidus [10:16]: Hard cases, right?

Casey Canevari [10:17]: Yes. Part of it, too, Mark, is the support that we have from our DMO partners. I mean, they really pull out all the stops within their destinations to showcase all they have to offer in those wonderful experiences.

Mark Lapidus [10:27]: So, Audrey, while I have you here, I might as well ask you about an update for Air Canada, just in general.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [10:32]: Absolutely. Well, we've been growing into the US, and it's always been a love story between Canada and the US, and Air Canada more specifically in the US. Did you know our very first flight was actually from Vancouver to Seattle?

Mark Lapidus [10:43]: Wow. It doesn't seem like that would be necessary.

Casey Canevari [10:45]: This is new news for me.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [10:47]: Back in 1937, so a while ago. But our love story with the US started a while ago, and so we keep on growing it every day. Even this year, we started new flights. We have Montreal to St. Louis. We also have Toronto to Charleston and Montreal to Austin. And so we keep growing our footprint into the US, and we keep growing our love story.

Casey Canevari [11:08]: That's fantastic. She's helping out with to, through, and beyond the gateways, for sure.

Mark Lapidus [11:12]: Absolutely. So what about doing this again?

Casey Canevari [11:15]: You know what? This was a labor of love. It was a lot of work, as we indicated earlier on. I am looking forward to doing it again. We're going to take a little bit of a break before we do this. But yes, it certainly is something that we are very interested in doing once again.

Mark Lapidus [11:26]: And so I might as well ask you about other upcoming MegaFams from Brand USA. It doesn't have to be Canada, we do them all over the place, right?

Casey Canevari [11:32]: We do them all over the world. Actually, funny enough, we have another inaugural MegaFam coming up, and that's a Korean MegaFam, and that's October 2024. That will be with Delta Airlines and Korean Air. We also have the annual MegaFam for UK and Ireland at the end of September. That's with partner airlines of British Airways, American Airways, and Aer Lingus. Then, Mark, I wanted to mention as well that we also have another inaugural thing happening in Canada as well this year. It's our Canada Connect. It's our quasi sales mission, which is taking place in, oh God, just a little less than a month.

Mark Lapidus [12:02]: What does it mean? Explain it to me.

Casey Canevari [12:04]: It's not your traditional sales mission. We're taking 35 different city and state partners and bringing them up to Toronto. They're going to have a day of B2B, like a mini IPW, with operators from all over Canada. We're bringing them on in. We're putting them on a plane, we're flying them out to Montreal, and we're going to do travel agent events in Montreal, and then off to Calgary. Traversing the entire country and doing another travel agent event in Calgary.

Mark Lapidus [12:26]: I should probably know this, Casey, but how much time do you spend in Canada?

Casey Canevari [12:29]: It's my second home. What I'm waiting for right now is just the passport. I'm in Canada two, three times a month on average. Actually, just after this, it ramps back up again.

Mark Lapidus [12:39]: Then, Audrey, question to you in reverse, how much time do you spend in the United States?

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [12:43]: Actually, this month, I've been spending every single week in the US. Seriously.

Mark Lapidus [12:48]: We like to hear that.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [12:50]: I think Casey and I should maybe trade homes.

Mark Lapidus [12:52]: It's an interesting idea.

Casey Canevari [12:54]: Yeah, that would save some money, actually. It'd be great.

Mark Lapidus [12:56]: What car do you have? You can switch cars, too.

Casey Canevari [13:01]: I don't know if she'd want my car. It's a minivan. I've got three kids.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [13:04]: Oh, no. But you'll have fun with my red convertible, Air Canada red.

Mark Lapidus [13:10]: Casey, I guess it would be helpful to know when we started making a big investment in the Canadian market.

Casey Canevari [13:14]: The Canadian market has always been the number one source market for international visitation. I've been at Brand USA for about a year and a half now, but we never had at Brand USA somebody dedicated from the headquarters office to go ahead and be the point person for Canada. Funny enough, my boss, Jackie, after I got hired, she said-

Mark Lapidus [13:31]: The world famous Jackie Ennis.

Casey Canevari [13:32]: The world famous Jackie Ennis, yes. You should see her on the IPW floor. She can't catch a break. She's been pulled in a million different directions.

Mark Lapidus [13:39]: People are asking for autographs, asking in line for photos.

Casey Canevari [13:42]: But Jackie tasked me and Katie Streater from our team. She said, "By the way, we have this project. We're doing a six-city road tour, and you're taking our third big screen film, Into Nature's Wild, on this road tour all throughout Canada." That was my inauguration into Brand USA. I mean, we started in-

Mark Lapidus [13:58]: Your wife probably said, "You sure you want this job?"

Casey Canevari [14:02]: Actually, you know what? This is the stuff I love. I love, love doing these things. I love boots on the ground. But I mean, we started in Ottawa, went to Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver. We went to the second-tier cities and have made our presence known in Canada. We're growing the interest in showcasing our investment through manpower and through big events like MegaFam.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [14:22]: It's so important for us that Brand USA does that, because we cannot just market the US alone. We need you guys to be able to do that.

Mark Lapidus [14:30]: It sounds like you spend so much time there in Canada, Casey, I'm going to worry if you start saying "aboat."

Casey Canevari [14:35]: I've started saying sorry a lot. Sorry, sorry.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [14:37]: It's so true. We say sorry quite a bit.

Casey Canevari [14:40]: Sorry.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [14:41]: Sorry.

Mark Lapidus [14:43]: Audrey, it's been a real pleasure hanging out with you today.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [14:45]: Oh, likewise.

Mark Lapidus [14:46]: I'll tell you something funny, we do make TV shows about Canada, and one of the challenges that we run into is making sure that the viewer understands they're Canadians and not Americans. And so very specifically in the last show that we made, it made certain that half the people on the Canadian show actually had slight French accents, or they spoke French at some point.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [15:05]: Well, if you need me...

Mark Lapidus [15:06]: Yeah, there you go. Second career in television.

Audrey Tanguay Beaudette [15:09]: I'd love that, actually.

Casey Canevari [15:11]: She would totally love that spotlight, without a doubt.

Mark Lapidus [15:14]: And thank you, Casey, for dropping by.

Casey Canevari [15:15]: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for having me.

Mark Lapidus [15:17]: As you just heard, MegaFams are a Brand USA signature program, and you also heard Casey mention that we have Canada Connect coming up from June third to the seventh. The dates are right?

Casey Canevari [15:26]: That's correct, yes.

Mark Lapidus [15:27]: And we're always looking for destination partners who interested in hosting one of our groups. So if that's you, fine listener, please get in touch with your Brand USA rep. And that's it for today for Brand USA Talks Travel, live from Los Angeles, California. Lots more episodes coming. I'm Mark Lapidus, thanks for listening.

Outro [15:45]: If you enjoyed this Live From IPW episode, please share it with your friends in the travel industry. Production and music by Asher Meerovich. Media producer, Nthanze Kariuki, with assistance from Casey D'Ambra. Engineering, Brian Watkins, Kat Pommer, and Antonio Tyler. Art by Mimi Jung. Special thanks to Peter Dodge and Colleen Mangone. More Live From IPW episodes coming soon. Safe travels!

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In This Episode:
avatar for Audrey Tanguay Beaudette
Audrey Tanguay Beaudette
Manager for Global Sales and Tourism Partnerships, Air Canada

Casey Canevari's Headshot
Casey Canevari
Senior Manager for Global Trade Development (Canada), Brand USA

Mark Lapidus' Headshot
Mark Lapidus
Host, Brand USA Talks Travel Podcast; Vice President, Content & Marketing Technology