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Manitobans embrace summer ‘staycations’ as COVID-19 pandemic hampers travel options

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WATCH: With fewer options for travel this year, Manitobans are finding ways to fill their summer without leaving the province. Will Reimer has more on the rising popularity of staycations this season – Jun 28, 2021

Many Manitobans are ditching the plane tickets and turning to local destinations for their summer holidays, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend most aspects of life.

Tourism Winnipeg says it’s planning for a continuation of trends seen during the spring, where roughly 2,200 hotel rooms were booked through Expedia alone.

It also saw some 3,200 page views on its website specifically detailing outdoor adventures and culinary options.

“We’re seeing an uptick in everything as a whole,” says Sarah Robinson, with Tourism Winnipeg.

“We saw an increase of 85 per cent of new visitors to the (web) page … and they were booking those hotel rooms and those staycations, so that’s exciting.”

Read more: The best, little-known summer staycation spots in Manitoba – according to us

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That’s in addition to patios reopening just last weekend in Winnipeg, and if restrictions continue to loosen, other attractions like museums could open their doors once again.

“We’ve been welcoming Manitoba tourists with open arms and now we’d love to see those out-of-province tourists coming back into the city, enjoying all of Winnipeg’s wonderful tourism attractions,” Robinson says.

Economic Development Winnipeg also kicked off its “Here For It” summer tourism promotion campaign Monday, which highlights a long list of activities, conveniently broken down into four categories: attractions, outdoor exploration, culinary, and retail.

“The basis behind is that we want to be here for our hotels and restaurants and attractions right now, so that they can be here for us in the future,” Robinson says.

Read more: COVID-19: Manitoba cabin staycation business booming, hotels not so much

Outside the Perimeter Highway, Hecla Resort is seeing between 90 and 95 per cent occupancy for July and August, and Gimli resort isn’t far behind, according to Jackie Storry, VP of Sales and Marketing with Lakeview Hotels and Resorts.

“I’m excited. I want to see people travelling again, and I want to travel again, so it’s definitely going in the right direction in my eyes,” Storry says, adding there’s only limited availability for two consecutive days during the weekend.

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“Last year I think people were … not quite sure what to expect when they got here, but we were really busy last year as well, like our summer last year, and I anticipate that’s what’s going to happen this year again.”

Meanwhile, the province says it has taken more than 110,000 reservations so far this year for camping, an increase of over 41 per cent from the same time period last year, which was already one of the busiest on record.

Read more: In-province tourism key to Manitoba success during pandemic: Destination Canada

“I would hazard a guess that by the time we crunch our numbers at the end of the season, we will have had a recording-breaking year; it certainly is in terms of the number of reservations we’ve taken thus far,” says Elisabeth Ostrop, manager of Recreation and Education Services with Manitoba Parks.

“I guess the inability to go anywhere else has really sunk in so people booked ahead this year for their camping plans, and reservations will fluctuate as their plans change, but it’s definitely been very busy.

A recent Leger poll found nearly half of Canadians are planning a road trip this summer, 10 per cent more than last year, and one-third of those will only be traveling between 4 and 6 hours from home.

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According to Travel Manitoba, the province’s tourism sector was expected to take a 45 to 60 per cent hit in visitor spending due to the pandemic.

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the industry was responsible for some $625 million in tax revenues, and supported more than 20,000 jobs both directly and indirectly.

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MPI files request for another customer rebate in early 2022 – Jun 28, 2021

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