Thank God for Canadians.
That's not quite the message of the day in tourism, but it could be. In the last 24 hours, I've received press releases extolling the virtues of travellers from Canada enriching economies around the world.
We're great travellers. Of course, given days like today when I walked down Yonge St. and spotted small patches of lawn outside the Star building covered with brown-grey ice and bits of litter and cigarette butts, and with a stiff wind whipping off Lake Ontario just for added misery, it's easy to see why so many of us take to the roads and the skies.
Florida, naturally, is one of our favourite targets of tourism largesse. The Sunshine State this week announced that a record 89.3 million visitors arrived last year, up 2.3 per cent from the record 87.3 million in 2011. Of those 89.3 million visitors, about 10.2 million were international visitors and 3.6 million of those were Canadians.
VISIT FLORIDA said both the international and Canadian visitation numbers are record highs. International visits were up 9 per cent and Canadian visits up 7.3 per cent from 2011.
Officials also said the number of direct travel-related jobs in 2012 was also a record high, with 1,030,600 Floridians employed in the tourism industry.
Later on Tuesday I got a note saying that visits to Korea are on the upswing. Maybe it's the search for something new in Asia, or maybe it's Psy and his viral Gangnam Style video, but I've seen more stories on Korea tourism in the last year than in the previous couple combined.
The note the tourism folks sent out says tourist arrivals in 2012 were up 13.7 per cent over 2011, with more than 11.1 million arrivals in all. Canada's numbers were up 5.1 per cent to 128,000.
“Canadians continue to pick Korea as not only a top stopover destination in Asia, but also for its unique culture, cuisine and history," said NJ Park, director for Korea Tourism. "Easy transfers to many of Asia’s top destinations, a 5,000 year history as well as transit tours have been key in our increasing numbers."
Park said Canada and Korea are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations.
(On a related note, I saw an item from Associated Press on Tuesday that quoted North Korea tourism folks as insisting that tourism is booming since they launched their latest nuclear bomb test. Hey, if North Korea says tourism is booming it must be true.)
Finally, I got another note Wednesday (you might have guessed, but there's a theme here folks) to announce that Jamaica recorded an increase in Canadian visitors in 2012, the ninth year of increases in a row. Jamaica welcomed 403,200 Canadians in 2012, an increase of 6.4 per cent over 2011 and a remarkable 38.9 per cent hike since 2009.
“We are thrilled to report our ninth year of growth in Canadian visitors to Jamaica,” said Philip Rose, Regional Director of Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). “Our efforts to drive demand have been successful thanks to great partnerships with our airline, resort and attractions partners who continuously deliver great Jamaican experiences to visitors. It’s clear Canadians have cultivated a strong relationship with Jamaica which we will continue to foster.”
I was on the island in the summer of 2011, touching down at Half Moon A Rock Resort outside Montego Bay, which was spectacular; with a great beach and wonderful food and beautiful grounds. You can even ride a horse out into the surf.
I also spent some time in Montego Bay on the so-called Hip Strip and spent a night at the lovely Sandals resort in Negril, where I got to take in the cliff-diving at nearby Rick's Cafe. I topped it off with a stay at one of my favourite spots in the world, Jakes at Treasure Beach; a funky and fun and vibrant spot on the south coast that's a bit out of the way but well worth it.
So, all in all, some pretty impressive numbers for Canadian visitors. Let's hope our economy stays solid so we can keep it going and take even more trips in 2013.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, is offering a deal on a 13-day trip to beautiful Thailand. The trip is listed at $1,599 for land only, while a double including air transfer is $3,544 (including $425 in taxes).
- 13-Day Enchanting Thailand Tour, including visits to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Thai temples, markets, hill tribes and more
- Land-only OR Air-Inclusive from Toronto via Cathay Pacific Airways, plus all transfers in Thailand. Pricing for both options below.
- Tour transportation via deluxe motorcoach and accompanied by English-speaking guide. Includes all admission fees, excursions and cruises specified in itinerary
- 11 nights' accommodation in 4-star hotels (double occupancy). Accommodations include stays in the following or similar: Montien Surawongse (Bangkok), The Legend (Chiang Rai), Empress (Chiang Mai) and Veranda Resort and Spa (Cha Am)
- Meals include 11 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 2 dinners throughout your tour
- You'll have small tour groups with English-speaking guides
- See all the distinctive regions of Thailand from Bangkok to the jungles of Chiang Mai and the beaches of Cha Am
- Enjoy unique accommodations like a boutique river resort
- Valid for travel on October 26, 2013 departure
- Pricing (per person):
- Land Only:
Double: $3119 + $425 tax
Single: $3759 + $425 tax
- Valid passport required for travel from Canada
- Refunds available until 5PM EST on February 13, 2013. After that time, this offer is 100% non-refundable.