DURING the past number of years, tourism to Canada from countries around the world has suffered.
Industry officials blame the decline on a number of reasons, including a lack of advertising in countries where tourists to Canada traditionally come from.
It may be some time before those issues are dealt with, so it is encouraging to be receiving multiple inquiries at this time from readers who are interested in visiting Canada this summer.
This column will try to answer a couple of those questions.
QUESTION: I have travelled through every province in Canada with the exception of Saskatchewan. Over the years I deliberately avoided the province, driving through it as quickly as possible because I perceived it to be boring.
Friends have suggested I may have been missing out on a significant Canadian place that is worth exploring.
What is your view?
ANSWER: The only thing not to like about Saskatchewan is the fact that they have a football team that has, from time to time, left us green with envy.
For so many years Saskatchewan was one of the poorest provinces, with a population drain that, only a few decades ago, had the equivalent of three people leaving it every hour.
The resource boom during the past few years has changed its economic foundation.
With it has come a huge influx of investment in the province.
Many of its finest citizens have returned, opening up business ranging from hospitality to industrial and beyond.
The net effect has been a complete revitalization in both attitude and construction.
Saskatoon especially, always seen as a young and progressive city because of its huge student population has become a dynamic place to visit.
Regina long ago had one of the best city parks in the country, situated in the shadows of its legislature, where families gathered around beautiful Wascana Lake for outings and picnics. Today, its 9.3 square kilometres of space is a prime tourist attraction for visitors to the city.
The Trans-Canada Highway may have been one of the most damming projects in the province.
Take your time and veer north. Travel via the Qu'Appelle Valley and you will find a landscape you never knew existed.
Travel farther north from Saskatoon to Prince Albert National Park where you can spend a week or more in a region that is exciting.
The province has always dedicated itself to building quality provincial parks. Today, they are exceptional stops for families from across Canada who want to explore this country.
Saskatchewan also holds an important place in history in the opening of Western Canada, and in its unique political foundations that affected government policy in areas such as health care for the entire nation.
QUESTION: We will be driving east this summer on a loosely defined tour of some of the eastern regions.
My question is about Quebec. In terms of Montreal and Quebec City is there enough of a difference in the cities to warrant the extra time to travel between the two cities?
ANSWER: Think of Toronto and Tokyo or Russell, Man., and Rome.
That is how different they are, and each city and region could gobble up days of your time and still have you wanting more.
They are both culinary cities whose restaurant owners know that if they do not produce the quality their residents and visitors expect, they will soon be out of business.
Quebec City is the building block upon which the rest of Canada was built. Its 400-year history is evident in its architecture. Its French culture and its location on the St. Lawrence River has made it a desired cruise ship stop. Together they consistently report above-average satisfactory levels from those who venture ashore for excursions, or to wander the city on their own.
While Old Montreal, as its historic region is known, offers some similarities, Montreal is a cosmopolitan city that makes a person feel like they could be in one of the great tourist capitals of the world.
While French may be its main language it is easy to find a Greek town, or an Italian community, or a ethnic community from any number of backgrounds that help form the unique fabric of this great city.
While the major Canadian brands may be present, the major department stores, malls and restaurant chains are often Quebec-headquartered with a flavour that separates them from similar venues around the country.
Take the time to visit both cities and you will be happy you did.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca