Staycation Sensation: Canadian Travellers Racked Up 71% Fewer Miles This Summer

If you stayed close to home this summer, you weren’t alone.

New data from Booking.com reveals that the average distance Canadians travelled from June 1 to Aug. 31 was down 71% from last year. They also found that 83% of the distance we travelled was within Canada, compared to 17% in 2019.

That’s not surprising given the closure of the U.S. border to most automobile traffic, not to mention government advisories about foreign travel, the requirement to quarantine when coming home and the summer outbreaks of COVID-19 in the U.S. But it’s still an amazing figure that shows just how different this summer was from the previous one, and likely for other summers dating back decades.

If there are any benefits to COVID-19, and it’s hard to find them in the travel and tourism business, one might be that we’ve discovered our own back yards in ways that might change our travel patterns down the road. Maybe we’ll take more time again next year to explore that little village down the road we’d always been curious about but never wandered into. Maybe we’ll expand our horizons a bit and head up to the Yukon for some amazing hikes, or out to Newfoundland and Labrador for a taste of true Canadian hospitality.

Booking.com found that in the summer of 2019, Canadian travellers journeyed on average 2,252 kilometres per booking. This summer, that distance plummeted to 662 kilometres per booking; just slightly further than the distance from Calgary to Kamloops or Toronto to Trois Rivieres, Quebec.

Again, it’s not surprising, but drivable lakeside towns and wooded escapes topped the list of trending destinations booked by travelling Canadians, as many took the opportunity to visit family and friends they’ve been apart from due to travel restrictions and social distancing measures. From what I heard, recreational vehicles became very hard to come as the summer went on and folks discovered the advantage of a “moveable hotel” that could be as clean as you wanted it to be.

Family hikes in the great outdoors were a big hit in Canada this summer. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Booking.com said many Canadians rediscovered the natural abundance of the Great White North, with classically Canadian lake and river-side towns seeing an increase in interest. A few of the domestic destinations that were summer 2020 stand-out stars include Banff, Mont-Tremblant, Kingston (Ontario) and Revelstoke (B.C.).

(I’ll vouch for Kingston. I was there in August and it was actually almost crowded.)

While many under-the-radar gems are trending, long standing, tried-and-true urban favourites still top the list of most popular destinations as Canadian travellers rediscovered their home country this summer. The top booked destinations this summer reveal that Canadians still love a city break, with Quebec City, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver topping the list (4).

When it comes to accommodation choice, Canadians were more likely to have opted for a cabin or chalet than they were last year, followed by a lodge, inn, motel, or resort, which all topped the rankings of trending accommodation types for Canadian travellers this summer.

“This rise in smaller, less populated accommodation types shows the shift in travel trends. When looking back at the end of 2019, before we knew that our 2020 travel plans would be clouded by a global pandemic, only 12% of Canadians were intending to stay at a cabin or chalet, while 59% were anticipating staying in a traditional hotel.”

At the end of 2019, Canadians were dreaming of fantastic local in-destination restaurants (76%) and beautiful beaches (67%). Some (41%) even dreamt of travelling to visit family and friends before they knew their contact with them would have been limited this year.

Many of those travel desires would typically have been met in far-flung destinations, but this year many have discovered these simple pleasures right next door. Whether relaxing on the beaches of B.C. rather than Fiji, or exploring the city delights of Toronto rather than Tokyo, the travel desires of many Canadians have still been indulged in 2020, just a little closer to home. 

“During these unprecedented times, it’s reassuring to see that while our plans and priorities have changed, our passion for travel has not,” Arjan Dijk, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com.The summer of 2020 proved that the happiness travel can bring is not simply measured in kilometres and that there is plenty to be explored and unforgettable memories to be made right next door.

“With our mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, we offer the widest choice of accommodations, exceptional value and the easiest experience so travellers can get out and enjoy the adventure we call life, whenever it’s safe to do so – whether near or far.”



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