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Canadian Winter Migration

With Canada's dollar trading low against its U.S. counterpart and economy at new historic lows, many Canadians are wondering whether they can afford a warm weather getaway this year. Certainly the weak dollar and problems with economy encouraged many to stay home last winter. 

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian visits to the United States fell by 14 per cent in the first quarter of this year, and 10.2 per cent in the second quarter, compared with the same periods last year.

Many Canadians are enthusiastic world travelers and many of them are finding new ways to escape without breaking the bank. Some travel agencies are offering special deals, such as early booking discounts, specifically aimed at consumers worried about the dollar and economy. Customers are biting and some companies are even reporting sharp increases in travel to destinations such as the Caribbean. 

Most snowbirds will do anything to keep going south. When the snow falls, it's like people's feet start to itch, and they must going south - they're addicted. It's like a national fever. Many snowbirds, however, are deeply concerned about their finances, because their average annual income is only $22,000 to $24,000.

September survey revealed that only about three to 5% intend to stay put, 3/4 have no intention of changing their plans to stay the average of four to six months, 12% are going for shorter periods - and 9% intend to earned their stay in the United States this year. This year they are particularly sensitive to basic costs, such as food, fuel and accommodation. Many are already trying to protect themselves from unexpected price hikes. Only medical plan, compared with a last year's prices, is much higher than last year.

In general, U.S. retailers can expect more belt tightening from the Canadians. Many say that they plan to eat at home more often, travel less within the United States, and limit spedal activities like golf and theme park visit. Anticipating the slowdown, some smart U.S. business are already offering Canadians a deal and cheaper prices for tickets and programs bought in advance.

Short-term vacationers, are avoiding the United States in much greater numbers, although they do not appear to be giving up their annual dose of sun. Sun-spot bookings are up by an estimated 20 to 30 per cent this year, especially for less expensive places like Cuba, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The number of customers heading to warm U.S. destinations is down, partly because of the slowdown in the Canadian economy.

Unlike other Canadians with only a few weeks for a holiday, snowbirds are less likely to turn their backs on the United States because of currency fluctuations or economic conditions. They often have close ties, such as real estate (75% of Canadian Snowbird Association members own property in the United States) or well established routines in particular communities that keep them going back in bad times as well as good.

When traveling in the U.S. search out so-called "par specials" offered by merchants willing to treat a Canadian dollar as if it had the same face value as a U.S. dollar.

Always carry Canadian identification, such as a driver's license or passport; otherwise, it can be difficult to take advantage of specials restricted to Canadians.

When traveling to the U.S. check with local tourism authorities. States popular with Canadians, like Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, often offer special deals.

Texas, for instance, is promoting a program called "Buckaroo Bucks," a booklet of discounts offered by more than 100 businesses. Deals include par specials at some major hotels and discounts of up to 50% at restaurants and attractions in 14 cities.

Some tour operators are offering a so-called "surcharge guarantee" on package holidays: once the trip has been booked and deposit paid, the price will not change, regardless of currency fluctuations.

Holidays in Cuba are paid for directly in Canadian dollars - unlike many other Caribbean destinations where the U.S. dollar is the standard. That helps keep prices for a Cuban vacation low.

The trend in the travel industry is toward shorter booking times, but travelers who pay for their holidays well in advance can often take advantage of early booking discounts.
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