Snow causes late rush for travel

Many of the Central Albertans who woke to fresh snow last week simply cursed and reached for a shovel.

Many of the Central Albertans who woke to fresh snow last week simply cursed and reached for a shovel.

But some reached for their telephone instead — and called CanWest Travel Company.

“No one was really expecting it and then all of a sudden the phone started ringing,” said Richard Roth, a partner in the Red Deer travel agency.

As people in the region continue to battle snow and cold, nearly two weeks after the official start of spring, many are impulsively booking trips to warmer climates, confirmed Roth.

“It’s almost like, ‘We’ve reached our breaking point and we’re about to snap, so get us out of this place!’”

At the Red Deer branch of the Alberta Motor Association, travel agents saw a jump in bookings to warm-weather destinations when Old Man Winter first bared his frosty teeth.

“Earlier in the winter we definitely saw an increase in demand,” said Jen Grauman, assistant manager of the AMA’s travel department.

The volume of tropical trips returned to normal levels in January and February, added Grauman. But the usual springtime shift to destinations like Europe appears to have been delayed in favour of southern options like Mexico, she said.

“We’re still getting demand for them, for sure.”

Grauman speculated that this might also be the result of a late Easter, when many families book their holidays. But she’s also noticed last-minute travel plans being formulated by winter-weary clients.

“That is happening, for sure.”

Shelley Cota, manager at Uniglobe Mills Travel in Red Deer, agreed that steady snowfall does keep the phones ringing.

But the quest for warm weather occurs every winter, she said, with most people making their plans well in advance.

“It was a busy winter, but I didn’t see an influx just because it was colder.”

Roth maintains that local interest in tropical destinations was higher than usual.

“It’s definitely weather-related.

“Absolutely, there’s no question about it.”

Another factor at play might have been the strengthened Alberta economy, said Cota.

However, the lower loonie made international travel more expensive.

Cota said she didn’t notice as many vacation sell-offs this winter, while Roth observed that Central Albertans had more flight options — thanks to increased air traffic out of Calgary and Edmonton, and the introduction of Air Canada service at the Red Deer Airport last fall.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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