SANTA will need to make a big detour if he wants to deliver gifts to some Manitoba families this Christmas.
A growing number of local families are planning to spend the holiday season on a beach, one local travel agent says.
"We're seeing a lot of families who are taking their entire families on a Mexican... or Caribbean holiday," Mary Jane Hiebert, general manager of Steinbach's Holiday Travel Inc. and vice-chairwoman of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents said in an interview.
"I would say they (holiday-season bookings) are up 10 per cent this year, and that's a pretty decent number."
Hiebert said Christmas getaways are particularly enticing for teachers and their families because they can escape for up to two weeks without missing any classes.
A Bank of Montreal official said she's also hearing of more families heading somewhere warm this Christmas.
"A lot of people are treating that as their Christmas gift, instead of traditional gifts," Laura Parson, a BMO personal finance expert, said.
"You can use your Air Miles and that takes a lot of the burden off of the cost of your flight. I've had lots of people telling me they're getting their flight for free."
A BMO holiday-spending survey released Wednesday also points to a spike in holiday-travel spending this year. The survey found Manitoba/Saskatchewan residents plan to spend about 15.5 per cent more this Christmas than in 2012 -- an average of $1,481 versus an average of $1,282.
And one of the biggest increases will be in travel spending, which is expected to jump by 31 per cent to an average of $539 from an average of $411.
Spending on entertainment is also expected to increase by 35 per cent to an average of $223 from an average of $165.
The only area where Manitoba/Saskatchewan residents indicated they plan to spend a little less this year is on gifts -- an average of $635 versus $645 last year.
While that could be seen as bad news for local retailers, the general manager of Winnipeg's largest regional mall -- Polo Park Shopping Centre -- said she's not worried.
"We're anticipating another good season," Deborah Green said Thursday, noting sales and traffic in the mall have already started to pick up and there isn't even any snow on the ground.
"It can be freezing cold, but until they (Manitoba shoppers) see snow on the ground -- that's what gets them thinking about Christmas."
Green said the Christmas shopping season here usually gets underway after Remembrance Day, and kicks into high gear with the Black Friday sales events on the last weekend in November.