Canadians want Mexico, Florida! Also Hong Kong and Sunwing USA news ...
Really interesting study from Bank of Montreal this week shows that more than one-half of Canadians are planning a fall vacation, and almost three in ten of those folks intend to leave the country.
The BMO study says 54 per cent of Canadians plan to travel this fall and that 29 per cent of those will do so outside of Canada. It's a growing trend that may be good for the airlines but not so much for Canada's tourism industry. The study found that since January 2012, outbound travel from Canada has jumped 5.2 per cent; reaching almost 16 milliion overnight trips. Travel to the U.S. in June jumped 8.9 per cent, thanks in part, I suspect, to the strong Canadian dollar and the new, much-improved higher duty-free limits at the border.
So, where are we headed? The study found Florida is, to no surprise, our top American destination. Sixteen per cent of respondents in the poll, conducted by Leger Marketing, said they were headed to the Sunshine State this fall. Just behind, at 15 per cent, was New York state, followed by Nevada (Viva Las Vegas!) ar 14, and then Illinois (Chicago, no doubt), California and Massachusetts (mostly Boston, I assume) at five per cent each.
Probably no surprise, although I did read a story online in the Central Valley (California) Business Times that suggested officials were shocked and appalled that Illinois and Massachusetts were tied with their beloved state. They're forgetting, of course, the dominance of Toronto in the Canadian marketplace and the distance we sadly have to go to for a trip to California. I mean, San Francisco and LA and San Diego are great, but air fares these days are $600 ON SALE from Toronto, while we can get to New York, Boston or Chicago for maybe half that. Or we can drive and buy cheaper U.S. gas and bring back oodles of new stuff in the back seat thanks to the duty-free changes.
I later got a breakdown that shows where Ontario folks want to travel. It's not radically different, but there are some interesting findings. The number one destination for the U.S. for Ontario folks was Florida, way up at 24 per cent. That's much higher than for Canadians as a whole (16). Next was New York at 14, then Nevada (10), Illinois (8), Pennsylvania (6), South Carolina and Michigan at 5 and California at 4.
For destinations outside the U.S. and Canada, Ontarians favoured Mexico (12), then Cuba and the Caribbean Islands at 10, unspecified Europe or East Europe (8), France (6), the Dominican Republic (5), England, Italy and Holland at 4 each and China and Australia at 3. Among the destinations getting a 2 per cent notice were Turkey, Germany, Hong Kong, Thailand and Costa Rica. Spain only got 1 per cent, as did Japan, Indonesia and The Bahamas.
As for international destinations, Mexico took the grand prize with a whopping 18 per cent support. Next was France, which obviously has a ton to offer for foodies, wine fans, history and culture afficionados and just about everybody else, at 10 per cent. Next was Cuba at 8 per cent, tied with unspecified European countries. The Caribbean in general was at 7 per cent.
Those numbers surprise me a bit, although it's certainly good for Mexico. I would've thought the attraction of cheap spots in the Dominican Republic, plus other faves such as Barbados, St. Lucia and the Bahamas, would put the Caribbean (I know, I know, the Bahamas technically aren't in the Caribbean) a touch higher. And where's the UK in this study? They just spent all that money on the Olympics and more Canadians want to go to France? Ai-yai-yai.
While we're travelling more, it looks like we're more focussed on value. Asked about their travel plans prior to summer, 35 per cent of Canadians said they'd spend less than $1,000 on their holiday. Asked about plans for this fall, a full 42 per cent said thyey'd be spending less than $1,000.
On a more ominous note, the study found that Canada's international travel account deficit - payments by Canadian travellers abroad vs. receipts from foreign travellers in Canada - reached $16.25 billion at the end of 2011. Which is not so good.
"If the growing trend in outbound travel continues, it will certainly put pressure on Canada's domestic tourism industry," said Robert Kavcic, Economist, BMO Capital Markets.
SUNWING ADDS USA COLLECTION
Speaking of increased travel to the U.S. by Canadians, Sunwing recently announced an expansion of its USA program with the debut of its new "USA Collection" brochure.
Sunwing continues to offer flights, hotels and vacation packages to spots like Florida and Vegas (see above). What's new this year are "USA City Escapes" to places like Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Oahu and Maui in Hawaii.
"With the increasing demand for flights, hotels and vacation packages in the USA, we are certain our new 'USA Collection' brochure will be well received by travellers," said Reg Mendes, vice president, USA and Cruise Division at Sunwing.
All Sunwing flights are on Sunwing AIrlines, with free 20 kg of checcked baggage, hot towel service and a choice of hotel meals with wine or a hot snack, soft drink and free in-flight entertainment. They also have Elite Plus for $40, with extra leg room, advance seat selection, a 30 kg bag allowance and more.
For more information, visit www.sunwing.ca.
HONG KONG GOES WILD IN THE FALL
Tons going on in Hong Kong this fall, with festivals galore. Tourism officials say the season gets underway with the Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival – one of the world’s great celebrations marking the ancient Chinese Harvest Festival, due to take place Sept. 27 to Oct. 2. Hong Kong puts a modern twist on the celebrations, with traditional lanterns merging with the city’s trademark neon beneath which fiery dragons dance through the busy streets and a full moon shines down on the revelers.
This year, the Lee Kum Lee Lantern Wonderland, located in Victoria Park, will once again be at the heart of the celebrations. This year’s award-winning lantern bears the name “Golden Moon”. It is a dome-shaped sculpture of light, 21 metres in diameter and 18 metres in height. It will be situated in a vast pool, surrounded by dozens of floating Chinese lanterns, with a pathway link allowing spectactors to walk inside the structure. The interior will be filled with even more lanterns, suspended to illuminate the scene with constantly varying brightness. “Golden Moon” was designed by two architects: Kristof Crolla from Belgium and Adam Fingrut from Canada.
In Tai Hang (once a small village, now part of the city on Causeway Bay) the Festival is celebrated over three days with a fire dragon dance consisting of hundred of performers, tens of thousands of sticks of incense and a 67-metre dragon that will "wend its way through the crowded city streets in a spectacle of fire and fury."
Food always takes the limelight through the fall, and this year will be extra-special due to the 10th staging of The Best of the Best Culinary Awards, co-organized by the HKTB and The Hong Kong and China Gas Company Ltd. This event showcases the cooking talent of local Chinese chefs and in the years since its inception has grown into Hong Kong’s largest culinary event. Ten finalists from September’s preliminary competition will be competing for the awards in the final competitions to be held on 4 and 5 October. The winning restaurants and their dishes are a great guide to the best in Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong.
When October arrives, thoughts turn towards Halloween as parties are planned and costumes created. Hong Kong is the perfect place to mark this occasion as this is a region with thousands of years of folklore populated with ghosts, ghouls and demons. Disneyland, Madame Tussauds, Discovery Harbour, the Avenue of Stars and spooky Ocean Park will all be getting into the mood. After that comes Hong Kong’s Wine & Dine Festival, due to take place Nov. 1-4. In fact, this festival will extend throughout the Hong Kong Wine & Dine month of November with street carnivals, the Festival of Restaurants and wine-and-dine promotions. The city’s top restaurants will share their finest offerings, while for those still in a party mood, the Lan Kwai Fong Carnival (Nov. 17-18) will bring together not only and beer stalls but also arts and crafts, dancers and musicians and other live performers from around the world. And for visitors who miss those dates, a World of Food and Music festival will take place Nov. 24 and 25 in beach-side Stanley.
For more information, visit www.discoverhongkong.com/ca.