International Experience Canada: shifting marketing messaging to keep Canadian youth informed and engaged

Oct 9, 2020

WYSTC 2020 Online headline sponsor International Experience Canada (IEC), part of the Government of Canada, manages youth mobility agreements with over 30 countries and foreign territories, that make it easier for young people to get a work permit and travel abroad, or in Canada. On the second day of WYSTC, IRCC Policy Analysts Melanie Gratton and Colin Lalonde delivered a session in which they outline the marketing and promotional activities that IEC is undertaking and how these differ to those prior to COVID-19.

IEC’s research highlights that awareness and likelihood for travelling abroad for Canadian youth is still low, but seen to be increasing. In general, there is a 3:1 participation ration: for every three foreign youth that come to Canada, one Canadian travels abroad. Compared to 36% of Canadian travellers likely to go abroad to study, work or volunteer, 80% say that they are likely to engage in leisure travel. Some young people state that they fear loneliness when travelling abroad, and others that a lack of information or funding is preventing them from undertaking a work abroad experience. 

To counter the above, prior to the onset of Coronavirus, IEC had implemented an engagement and promotion strategy to communicate the benefits of working holidays to Canadian youth: applying for a visa is quick and cheap, making it easier to get a job abroad.  

As the pandemic took hold in March, key messaging was forced to adapt to the unfolding pandemic. Working holidays were no longer an option with non-essential travel restrictions in place, the message ‘Work and travel NOW!’ became ‘prepare to travel later’.

A shift in marketing objectives
As well as a change in promotional message, IEC re-focussed its marketing objectives to raising awareness about IEC and building trust among youth travellers, providing a reliable and relatable source of information and exploring partnerships with stakeholders to address outbound mobility. IEC is also committed to rebuilding youth travel in an inclusive manner, which includes engaging indigenous and the LGBTQ+ community and improving access to work abroad experiences.

How to reach Canadian youth?
– Understand their behaviour. Young people rely on social media to influence their decisions, therefore it is a key channel to target youth and raise awareness about IEC. 
– Push out content by their peers who have already lived the experience. Prospective travellers are likely to be more influenced by information provided by past participants.
– Quality information. With the likelihood to travel abroad for work, study or volunteer opportunities among Canadian youth still being low, facilitating quality information that young people can trust is essential. 

Thank you to International Experience Canada for sponsoring WYSTC 2020 Online.