Happy travels close to home

Canadians who are planning a summer getaway expect to spend about $2,500 on their vacation, slightly more than last year, according to a survey sponsored by Scotiabank.

The strong job market in 2006 has helped support travel spending, with half of those surveyed planning a trip this summer, bank economist Adrienne Warren was quoted in a Canadian Press report.

But the impact of high fuel prices has had an impact on holiday planning, she added.

For instance, this year’s survey respondents plan to spend far less an accommodation and far more on entertainment and sightseeing than respondents in a 2005 survey. The figures suggest people are compensating for the high prices at the gasoline pump and higher airline fares by staying closer to home, said Warren.

“People only have so much (money) put aside for their summer vacations. And if they’re not willing to run up big debts … they may find some areas where they’re going to have to cut back at little bit,” she said.

The Decima Research survey indicated that Canadians planned to spend on average about $810 on vacation transportation and $453 on meals and beverages – up$74 and $41, respectively, from last year’s results.

Holiday accommodation spending is expected to fall by 26 per cent, while spending for entertainment and sightseeing will rise by nearly 20 per cent from last year, the survey estimated.

And about half of the travellers plan to stay in Canada, with many not venturing beyond their own province, according to the survey.

“It’s good in the way that it helps offset some of the weakness we’ve seen in terms of U.S. visitors coming to Canada,” Warren said.

U.S. visitors to Canada’s largest city, for instance, has been steadily waning for the past five years. In fact, the number of Americans visiting Toronto has fallen by 17 per cent since 9/11, according to a report in the National Post.

And while the weakness in cross-border travel may be somewhat compensated by more Canadians taking their holiday in-country, international visitors are likely to spend more, on average, than domestic travelers, according to Warren.

“So it’s a bit of a mixed picture but on balance I think it’s really positive whether you’re looking at transportation – airlines and trains – or whether it’s for hotels and food and entertainment …,” she said.

“I think you’re looking at a very large number of travellers that seem in a very confident and upbeat mood this summer.”

The survey also found that travellers in Quebec (38 per cent), British Columbia (27 per cent) and Ontario (22 per cent) are most likely to vacation within their home province. These three provinces and Alberta were ranked as the most popular domestic destinations overall.

Decima Research conducted the national telephone poll on behalf of Scotiabank in April and May. Overall results are based on a randomly selected sample of 3,026 English-and French-speaking adults aged 18 years and older.