Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/3/2011 (3372 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Mexican currency challenge will not go away.
Tour operators advise taking Canadian dollars, yet I am consistently receiving reports that would fly in the face of those recommendations.
Returning travellers are reporting that few vendors want our dollars, even though their value is above that of the still-favoured U.S. greenback.
Some report considerable frustration in this regard since they have followed the advisories and ended up having to pay the costs of Mexican ATMs which can be beyond the couple-of-dollar fees they are often faced with at home.
I still suggest that a mix of options is your best bet. A few American dollars, some Canadian, and your usual ATM and credit cards will get you through. And while travellers' cheques may not have the same cachet they used to have, I always carry some with me when going to Mexico or anywhere else.
QUESTION: Prices do seem to be going up with the increase in crude oil prices, but is it also correct that we seem to have more destinations and frequency available to us than in the past?
ANSWER: The airline industry seems to be on the rebound again, notwithstanding fears they may have about consumers curtailing some of their travel plans in concert with higher fares and fuel surcharges.
Air Canada alone will be adding almost a half a million seats over the summer to its already established routes and several new ones. Daily-service destinations include Copenhagen, Denmark; Madrid, Spain; Dublin, Ireland; and Santiago, Chile. Air Canada will also increase frequency to its established and popular European tourist cities of Barcelona, Spain and Athens, Greece.
As a part of an international targeted strategy to attract higher-paying business passengers, most of the flights, according to Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu, will be funnelled through one of Canada's three major hubs -- Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
Air Canada is making money again, recently reporting a profit of $107 million compared to 2009 losses of $24 million on historic load factors of 81.7 per cent.
As already reported, WestJet is feeling bullish about its new code-share agreements with British Airways and Cathay Pacific and confident these are just the start of greater connectivity to major world carriers.
Canadian charter carrier Air Transat/Transat Holidays also appears ready for combat over the busy summer travel season as well. They will be going to a number of countries including Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Spain and the British Isles.
In an effort to maximize competitively and gain early bookings, Transat initiated a best-price guarantee on their European packages. Trips of seven days or more booked before March 31 guarantees an actual cash refund should Transat offer a lower price later.
All of these Canadian carrier additions fall in line with long-term forecasts by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that there will by 3.3 billion air travellers annuaally by 2014, a growth of 800 million over the 2.5 billion who flew in 2009.
QUESTION: The Chinese Government seems to be very aggressive in promoting itself to visitors. Yet Taiwan, which is a beautiful and interesting country on its own, seems not to do much in this regard. I have visited Taiwan and found it to be fascinating. Is tourism growth not one of their major economic objectives?
ANSWER: Taiwan has tried to promote tourism, but they certainly do get lost in the flood of advertising and promotions that flow out of other Asian countries.
Once the manufacturing centre of the region, Taiwan slowly lost its power as China got serious about its exports, even though Taiwan still contends it puts more quality into the products it manufactures.
It has always promoted tourism -- for the past decade it was under the banner "Taiwan -- Touch Your Heart.' Recently, it modified its slogan to place it into a geographical perspective: "Taiwan -- The Heart of Asia." While Canada may not see much of the campaign, especially the TV campaign with its rousing new song, "Time for Taiwan," the U.S. and Europe surely will.
Taipei made headlines when it constructed the then-tallest building in the world, knocking off Toronto's CN Tower at the time. But its real appeal to me, when I visited a few years ago, was outside the capital. Beautiful lakes and mountains and a deep and compelling history made the journey most fascinating. But, perhaps the most impressive for me were the geographic formations, carved by time, in the Yehliu Geopark and the view of Sun Moon Lake from the mountain peaks that overlooked it.
I found the people extremely friendly and, on at least two occasions, had people come forward to ask if they could assist me, seeing the confused look on my face. Restaurants were plentiful and varied with excellent-quality service and taste.
While it's not a country I will likely get back to, I certainly share your enthusiasm for it and am happy to recommend it.
Forward your travel questions to email@example.com. 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
A writer and a podcaster, Ron's travel column appears in the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday in the Destinations and Diversions section.
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