Skip to comments.Canadian sun-seekers rediscover Florida; tourism booming!
Posted on 02/17/2004 10:05:11 AM PST by Pikamax
Canadian sun-seekers rediscover Florida Strong dollar, brutal winter mean we're returning to southeastern U.S.
CURTIS RUSH STAFF REPORTER THESTAR.COM
Mickey Mouse and Florida are hot this winter.
So hot that the president of itravel2000.com says that bookings for Canadians are at a seven-year high to Orlando's Disney World and other popular areas in the Sunshine State.
But in some cases, reduced availability could mean higher prices.
"We could never have anticipated the avalanche of bookings we've had into Florida this year," said itravel2000.com's Jonathan Carroll.
Canadians' hunger for some fun in the sun stems from a variety of factors, according to Carroll.
It's been a brutal winter, the Canadian dollar is strong against the U.S. currency, and many areas of Florida, such as Miami, are revitalizing their economies and attractions.
"Bookings for Florida are very tight right now," Carroll told thestar.com this morning.
"Everybody that abandoned Florida for the last six or seven years because of the weak Canadian dollar are 100 per cent back there now. You can see it with availability. Wherever you go in Florida, it's very tight."
Prices, as a result, are climbing, but "there are still good deals to be had if you're flexible in your date and time," the travel specialist said.
You can still get a return flight for $199, he says.
"Florida is absolutely the winter destination this year for the U.S.," the president of itravel2000.com said.
Hotel rooms are being taken up not only by Canadians, but by Americans who are staying home this winter.
"Americans are travelling domestically," Carroll said, adding that international terrorism is still having its effects.
"Even Mickey Mouse is on fire right now," said Carroll. "Florida is a fan favourite for many people."
Orlando still has the best availability because of the greater number of hotels there.
Fort Lauderdale and Miami are popular now too.
"Ten years ago nobody would go to Miami because of the crime," the travel expert said. "Now it's the hip place to be."
South Beach has been transformed, he added, as old hotels have been reburbished with spectacular results.
It's the place where more and more celebrities frequent too.
"You can go to a club and see a star whether it's P. Diddy, J. Lo, or Madonna or Britney Spears. They all hang out there now."
The cold temperatures this winter also gave the spring fling a kick-start.
Typically, Carroll says, we would have had a week or two of very cold temperatures, "but we've been in this since January 5. It's been non-stop."
Tom Flanigan, a spokesperson for Visit Florida, suggests that if anybody has trouble with securing accommodation for the right price, they should explore some of the hidden treasures.
He suggests that the Florida Panhandle in the northwest, while not as hot as Miami nor as chilly as Sudbury, offers stunning beaches.
"They don't call it the Emerald Coast for nothing," he said.
The area runs from Pensacola over to Panama City.
Flanigan also suggests that drivers going south may also wish to get off the interstates and explore the more traditional tourist trails such as U.S. 98, which starts in Pensacola and wraps down the coast to Tampa.
You could also drive on U.S. 1, which parallels Interstate 95 going down the east coast.
Instead of looking for an exit, you can look for the roadside stands that sell fresh fruits and vegetables right off the farm, Flanigan told thestar.com.
He said the official Florida Web site is a good starting guide.
On the site, you'll find a cartoon icon called 'Sunny' which will help you plan your trip. Stephen Greene, spokesperson for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said Myrtle Beach enjoyed a 90 per cent occupancy rate this past weekend, which he attributes to the unsually warm weather there now.
"We're expecting 70 degrees this weekend," he said, adding there are 72,000 units available in Myrtle Beach.
The upcoming weeks will be popular too because for the first time direct Toronto to Myrtle Beach flights will be available twice a week from Ultimate Golf Vacations, which will run a Voyageur Dash-8 there on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting in March.
Also, Myrtle Beach will be celebrating its 45th anniversary of its Canada-America Days Festival from March 13-21.
Greene said it's hard to predict what the availability of accommodations will be after the March break, but said that while Florida will be enjoying its peak season, "we're in our off-season."
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