Have Canadians thrown off our love affair with the U.S. in favour of exotic Asia? A new report from hotels.com suggests that could be the case.
The study of bookings made by Canadians on their site in 2016 found that Los Angeles dropped from the 8th most popular international destination in 2015 all the way down to 20th, while Washington D.C. dropped from number 19 in 2015 to 35th last year.
Some U.S. cities still did extremely well. New York was number one and Las Vegas was number two overall for bookings by Canadians, while Orlando was fifth. (The other top five destinations were London in 3rd spot and Paris number four.) Honolulu moved up from 22nd to 18th, while Anaheim went from 21st to 17th and Miami rose from 16th to 13th. But those gains were more than offset by other losses. San Diego fell from 11th to 15th, San Francisco dropped from 6th to 8th, Chicago fell from 7th to 10th and Seattle dropped from 10th to 14th.
Asia seems to be benefitting the most from this apparent change in Canadian travel habits. According to bookings on hotels.com, Hong Kong moved from the 12th most popular destination in 2015 to a very solid 6th last year. It’s a terrific place, with awesome food, great shopping, wonderful culture and excellent hiking, which often surprises people.
Also moving up the ranks was Bangkok, which jumped from 18th to 9th. Tokyo, another fantastic destination, moved up from 15th to 11th, while Bali jumped from 33rd to 19th.
I wouldn’t go too crazy analyzing one particular study from one particular booking site, but there’s also no reason to think that bookings on hotels.com are that radically different from other website bookings. In which case we could be seeing some serious damage to the U.S. economy.
I don’t think the political situation is helping, but the 2016 stats would’ve been almost entirely prior to Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president. It’s more likely the weak Canadian dollar is to blame for falling interest in Canadians heading south. Still, if I was a U.S. tourism person I’d be worried about diminished interest from one of their most important sources of travel-related income.
While I’m not personally blaming Trump for the Canadian figures, I do note that a report out of the UK the other day found that bookings for U.S. trips from Europe were down 11% in the past couple months. And there have been reports of a significant drop in interesting in visiting the U.S. since Trump tried to bring in his now infamous travel ban.
A stronger Canadian dollar would no doubt help boost Canadian visits to the U.S. But perhaps we’re seeing a cultural change at work.
I’ve often made the point to folks that they can travel to Asia for a lot less money than they can to some big U.S. cities. Yes, the air fare is more and it takes longer to get there. No getting around those issues. But hotels and food are considerably cheaper in Asia; sometimes a fraction of the cost of big American cities.
I went online this morning and found a room at the Four Seasons in midtown New York listed for $1,015 Cdn. per night. The posh and wonderful new Four Seasons Downtown had rooms from $759.
If you want to try Bangkok, you can get the Shangri-La, roughly comparable to a Four Seasons, for $262 Cdn. per night. Expedia was listing a Novotel in Bangkok – almost always a good, solid hotel choice – for just $84. You could stay in Thailand for seven nights at the Shangri-La for $1,834 or at the Novotel for $588. Seven nights at the Four Seasons Downtown in New York would set you back $5,313.
For simple math, let’s assume a flight to Bangkok from Toronto costs $1,500 and a flight to New York costs $350. You’d spend another $1,150 to get to Bangkok, but you could stay at the Shangri-La for a week for $1,834. That’s roughly $3,000 invested. If you spent $350 for air fare to New York and wanted to stay at the FOur Seasons Downtown and still spend $3,000 on your vacation, you’d only be to stay three nights. If you wanted to spend four you’d have to up your budget to almost $3,400.
And that doesn’t take the cost of food, taxis and entertainment into account. You can get fantastic meals in some parts of Asia (think Thailand or Vietnam more than, say, Shanghai or Hong Kong) for $20 Cdn, and very good ones for $5. And you can probably buy a beer at the beach in Thailand for less than a buck.
If you live in Vancouver, it’s even cheaper to fly to Asia than it is from Toronto. And it’s a lot pricier to fly to New York. So the Asia argument works even better for folks in B.C.
Something to think about next time you’re planning an extended vacation.