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Manitobans plan on staying closer to home

High cost of travel a concern: survey

The fact many Manitobans are scaling back travel plans this summer  bode well for area tourist attractions such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The fact many Manitobans are scaling back travel plans this summer bode well for area tourist attractions such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

The home fires are burning a little brighter this summer as more Manitobans scale back their travel plans in the wake of rising gasoline prices and a growing desire to save money or pay down debt, a new survey has found.

In its 2014 Summer Travel Outlook report released Monday, BMO Financial Group said a recent online survey found substantially fewer Manitoba/Saskatchewan residents are planning summer trips to other provinces.

A senior Travel Manitoba official said there were a number of encouraging aspects about the survey results. One was 55 per cent of the Manitoba respondents plan to travel within the province this year, and the other was that 81 per cent of Alberta residents said they plan to travel within Canada.

Linda Whitfield, the agency's vice-president of sales and marketing, said Alberta was one of the provinces Travel Manitoba targeted with this year's marketing campaign, and there are two major new tourist attractions opening within the next three months -- the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Assiniboine Park Zoo's Journey to Churchill exhibit -- that should be big draws for both local and out-of-province visitors.

"It's absolutely perfect timing..., Whitfield said. "This is great news for us."

The survey results also bode well for many the province's established tourist attractions including The Forks, the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the myriad of other summer festivals and cultural events.

The BMO survey found 47 per cent of Manitoba/Saskatchewan residents are planning to travel to other provinces versus 62 per cent in 2013. Fewer of them are also planning trips to the United States -- 29 per cent versus 47 per cent. Prairie residents also plan to spend less this year on summer travel -- an average of $1,699 compared with an average of $2,341 in 2013, the bank said.

"The tempering in travel plans is mostly attributed to financial circumstance, with one-fifth (22 per cent) scaling back in order to save more, and 16 per cent focusing on paying off debt," the bank said.

Sixty-seven per cent also said high gas prices were also influencing their travel plans, with 33 per cent saying they'll be taking fewer out-of-town trips and 27 per cent saying their were planning more "staycations."

The Prairie findings are in keeping with a national trend that will see more Canadians staying closer to home this summer, and for many of the same reasons.

"Affordability is top of mind for Canadian travellers, likely because of their renewed focus on saving this summer as well as other factors, including the Canadian dollar and fuel prices," said Nick Mastromarco, BMO's managing director, credit card products.

While the BMO survey suggests fewer Manitobans will travel to the United States or to other provinces this year, two local travel agents said they haven't seen any drop-off in the number of clients planning overseas jaunts.

"We've still got a good number of people going abroad for a variety of reasons," said Mary Jane Hiebert, general manager of Steinbach's Holiday Travel Inc. and Manitoba's representative on the board of directors of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents.

Daryl Silver, president of Winnipeg's Continental Travel Group, said European river cruises are also proving popular again this summer with his clients.

"You can see many countries in one trip... and you can see the best of the best along the way," he said.

Klarissa Johnson, 19, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Joshua Myers, are two Winnipeggers who have already made a trek overseas. They went on a one-month European jaunt this spring, which took them to England, France, Italy and Greece.

"We went to Europe with our school (a few years ago) and got a little taste of it," Johnson said, "and we decided we wanted to go back.

She added it took them a year and a half to save up the money for the trip.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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