Travel Advice: Get to know your own country

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Posted March 26, 2012 by Adrian Brijbassi in Travel Advice
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Is this boring? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Seeing killer whales in Haida Gwaii, BC, is one of this country’s awesome sights. (Duane Foerter/Queen Charlotte Lodge)

Advice from Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor

Canada’s boring. It’s too expensive. There’s nothing to see. Other countries are way more exciting.

Those are the reasons given by Canadians for not travelling in their own country. The Global Tourism Watch, a 2011 Harris/Decima Research survey conducted for the Canadian Tourism Commission, revealed some insights into why Canadians would rather see other parts of the world instead of exploring provinces beyond their own.

For a country that can be incredibly jingoistic at times, some of us sure do have a low opinion of our land. And a misguided one, too.

The Global Tourism Watch survey was published shortly before the release of this year’s Future Brand Country Index findings, which placed Canada at No. 1 for the second straight year. That index is compiled from surveys of more than 3,500 business and leisure travellers from 14 countries. Participants rank nations in a number of categories and the cumulative ranking determines the overall score.

Globally, Canada’s image bests every other country, but at home the perception by some is it’s blah. What most surprised the researchers of the Global Tourism Watch was the low opinion several domestic travellers have about their country as a destination.

“The most striking thing about the exhibit, however, is the increasing numbers of travellers who mention Canada’s nondescript image as a travel barrier,” said the report that surveyed thousands of adult Canadians. “This trend first emerged last year, but has worsened in 2011, with no real reason to go, not exotic enough, nothing to do and no unique history/culture now up 8 to 11 [percentage points] over 2009 levels. The proportion who feel that Canada is too boring is also trending skyward.”

During the decade I lived in New York, I met several Americans who didn’t own a passport because, as they said, they didn’t need to go anywhere else; their country had plenty to see for a lifetime. I even knew a couple of New Yorkers who hadn’t ventured much beyond the city in decades because “the world comes to New York, there’s no need to travel.”

A little arrogant, sure. But, as the Global Tourism Watch survey shows, Canadians could use some of that confidence when it comes to their view of this country. As spring and summer arrive, there’s an immense amount of attractions and activities to get charged up about across the country — whether it’s the myriad festivals in our major cities, or the vast number of opportunities for scenic or wildlife viewing. If you’ve never seen a killer whale breach the surface and leap out of the water for your attention, then you need to get yourself to Vancouver Island or north to Haida Gwaii, the Galapagos of the North. Want more excitement? Get screeched in on George Street in St. John’s, track grizzlies on the hunt for salmon in Kluane National Park in the Yukon, watch the mayhem and wackiness that is the annual Nanaimo Bathtub Race in British Columbia.

If you don’t think Canada has much history or culture, then visit Quebec City to get your fill, or drop in on Kingston, Ontario, our nation’s first capital, or wander to Alberta’s Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a site with archeological finds dating 5,500 years that give a valuable insight into early human life on the continent.

Despite all of those options for Canadians, travel to the United States and overseas is up dramatically, while domestic trips are projected to languish. On the other hand, Americans and other foreign visitors are arriving here in record numbers. The French, in fact, are so enthusiastic about Canada that the country is on the list of places to visit in the next two years by 40% of its people who intend to take a long-haul trip, the Global Tourism Watch said in February.

CANADA TRAVEL IS COOL, VISITORS SAY

Listen to travellers from around the world and you realize there’s a coolness factor to Canada these days. During the recent Canadian Music Week events in Toronto, musicians I spoke to commented on the harmoniousness of the city and its vibrancy, as well. They remarked about the vastness of the nation and listed the many number of places in it they want to see.

Vacay.ca exists because those of us who operate this publication see a need for credible, authoritative and engaging information on Canadian destinations. That’s not to say we discourage travel to other countries. Without going elsewhere, you won’t be able to appreciate what you have at home. I’ve been to more than 30 countries and it’s by travelling and living abroad that I was able to understand how special Canada is. It’s many things — and not one of them is boring.

If you’re not convinced of that, or if you’re just not sure what to do with your travel plans, email me for trip-planning advice and I’ll do my best to fill you in on destinations to enjoy and ways you can save.

Don’t count out your own country when you plan your travels this year.

TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK

Since the Costa Concordia shipwreck in January cruises have been on sale as the industry aims to recover from the crisis of confidence. I’m not a fan of cruises but one of a very few that are on my to-do list is the Inside Passage journey from Vancouver to Alaska. It’s on sale with Princess, one of the more reputable cruise lines, and you can take advantage of some serious savings if you book early. Rooms on some departures are going for less than $800 for the seven-night voyage that reaches Ketchikan in southern Alaska before returning through the beautiful Gulf Islands of British Columbia. To find out more about this cruise deal, visit the Princess website.


About the Author

Adrian Brijbassi
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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and his articles are frequently syndicated by the Huffington Post and appear in the Globe & Mail. He makes regular appearances on CTV News, TSN Radio and CJSF Radio, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction, and has visited more than 30 countries. He is also a judge for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and spearheaded the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list that debuted in April 2012.

 
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In Cowichan Valley, life is bountiful
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