Canada takes silver medal in best countries of world poll, plus my Aeroplan dining winner and news about Busabout and Air Transat

We’re number two. But our Prime Minister is number one.
A new study by U.S. News and World Report found that Canada was ranked number two in the world in terms of best countries. The study looked at 80 countries in the world, examining their economic influence, quality of life and other issues.
Switzerland came out on top of the overall country rankings, followed by Canada, Germany (up from fourth last year), the UK (down from third), Japan, Sweden, Australia, the United States (down one spot from last year), France and The Netherlands.

Takakkaw Falls is a lovely spot in Yoho National Park in British Columbia. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Although we barely number one overall, Canada’s Prime Minister, selfie king Justin Trudeau, came out on top in the ratings for “most respected globally.” Trudeau had a 63 per cent approval rating. Next was German Chancellor Angela Merkel (56 per cent approval), followed by France’s Emmanuel Macron (51). In a result that will surprise no one, U.S. President Donald Trump (25 per cent approval) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (34) both finished well down the charts.
The study is a project by U.S. News and World Report, Y & R’s BAV Group and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This year marked the first time respondents were asked their opinions of world leaders. No doubt the results will be dismissed as “fake news” by Trump, aka “The West Wing Wacko.”
The report ranked countries on an overall basis. It also looked at which countries are best for education, quality of life, entrepreneurship and which are best to visit. Here’s a sample of some findings:
Top three to start a business: Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico
Top three for women: Denmark, Sweden, Norway
Top three for retirement: New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland
Best for quality of life: Canada
Best for country to visit: Brazil
Best for rich traditions: Italy
Best for entrepreneurship: Germany
Best for education: UK
It’s pretty hard to argue that Scandinavia isn’t best for women. Or that Canada has the highest quality of life, notwithstanding the cold snap we had a few weeks ago and the fact the Maple Leafs aren’t playing well lately.
Overall, it’s another nice study to make Canadians feel good about ourselves and our place in the world. In all seriousness, we ARE extremely lucky to live in this great country.


We have a winner in my Aeroplan dining contest; Reese Travers. Congrats, Reese; you’ll be getting a $200 dining card for Oliver and Bonacini Restaurants. They’re fantastic places to eat. Be sure to check out Winterlicious in Toronto for great meals at terrific prices!


I haven’t had the pleasure of taking one of their trips, but I attended a fun Toronto event for Busabout last week and came away impressed with the concept.
The concepts behind the company, at least in part, are “Flexible Travel” and “Adventure Unlimited.” It’s like a “hop-on, hop-off” city tour in some ways, as you have the flexibility to decide to stick around in a city if you meet that special someone or want to try that great food spot your friends posted on Instagram. All you do is wait a couple days and the next bus will come around to take you to your next destination.
They’re adding new products all the time in Europe and Asia, as well as North Africa. And they’re also looking at North American trips in the near future.

Busabout trips are a great way to see some of the world’s top destinations, but with more flexibility than a group tour. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Bookings are up more than 100 per cent in Canada for 2018 compared to last year, so the word is getting out.
“Busabout provides the social atmosphere of a guided tour with the flexibility of an independent traveller,” officials said at the event I went to. “We visit some four dozen cities in 15 countries, with a bus coming every two days so you can stay as long as you want.”
And this from their website: “You’ll get all the perks of a tour such as a door to door service, guides on our coaches with all the info about your next destination, lots of optional activities and a great travel experience with like minded backpackers and soon-to-be best mates.”
You can book your own places to stay, but they also have places set aside, which they can take you to directly. And that’s a nice option if you happen to arrive late at night.
In some cases, you have to stay a night in a particular destination, but other places are strictly up to you. Destinations include everything from the main cities of Italy to Poland and Portugal, as well as the top travel spots that young folks like in Asia; Bangkok, Angkor Wat, Hanoi and more.
Trips can go for a little as a week or as long as three months.


This is nice. Air Transat has looked at those studies that show how something like one-third of Canadians don’t take the vacation time they’re entitled to. Rather than sit back, they decided to start something called “Vacation Intervention.”
Canadians are invited to nominate a deserving friend, family member or co-worker who hasn’t been on a holiday in a long time. Entries are being accepted until February 4 via one of the participating radio stations or the Air Transat contests page. There are 19 all-inclusive Sun destinations packages to be won.

Air Transat wants to send vacation-deprived Canadians on a great, restful holiday.

Just for fun, they had a fake “performance review” person go in and talk with various workers. The performance review guy goes down a list and tells them they’re excellent at all aspects of their job. But he then hits them on their “vacation performance” and explains they’re performing poorly. One guy explains he took a half-day vacation to take his mother to the airport. Awww….
The fake reviews are followed by surprise give-aways of Air Transat vacations to needy workers, who are stunned and shocked. Some are nearly in tears.
It’s a lovely, heart-warming video that’s well worth watching.


Are beach holidays about to be overtaken by city trips?
A study by the Resonance Consultancy found that U.S. millennials are almost as likely to visit a major metropolitan city in the next 24 months (38 per cent) as they are to visit a beach resort (40 per cent). A lot of holiday travel business is built on the beach getaway. But this report suggests that could soon change as millennials continue to seek out slightly exotic but still familiar places where they can order up an Americano coffee from a hip barista and use their Uber app to get to the Air BnB they booked in Nashville, San Francisco or Boston.
I suspect as millennials get older and have kids they’ll probably opt for a number of vacations on the beach in Florida versus taking six-year-olds to New York City. But the city travel trend has been growing and shows no signs of slowing down. Interesting, for sure….

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