This month’s travel news, buys and curiosities
Free flights to Hong Kong
Eager to kickstart tourism after years of travel shutdowns and restrictions, Hong Kong is handing out 500,000 flights to the city for free. Well – winners do have to pay taxes and surcharges but the base fare is free.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board purchased the tickets during the worst of the pandemic to support its most popular airlines, such as Cathay Pacific, HK Express, Hong Kong Airlines and Greater Bay Airlines. Those tickets are now up for grabs.
The influx of travellers, not to mention the publicity boost of free flights, is much needed. Hong Kong’s tourism industry had stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic, in no small part owing to widespread public protests in 2019. The massive demonstrations began in June that year as an outcry to a government bill that would allow extradition to mainland China, where legal rights are often violated. Protestors also began to demand more democratic reforms and investigations into police brutality as residents, especially young people, became more fed up with changes to the country as a special administrative region of China.
The World of Winners promotion began last month as the economy class tickets were offered to Asian markets first. The offer finally opens up to Canadian and U.S. travellers next month. On May 17, at 5 p.m. PT and 8 p.m. ET, Canadians can log on and try their luck. But first, register ahead of time via the Cathay Pacific website to receive a unique code on launch day.
British Columbia’s new mountain coaster
TransCanada highway trippers on the long haul between Calgary and Vancouver can shake up the drive a little by making a stop in Golden, B.C., this summer. As of May 12, a new 3,375-foot-long mountain coaster opens to the public at the Golden Skybridge adventure park. Just a five-minute drive off the highway, this new coaster is one of the biggest in the country with grand views of the Columbia Valley. After strapping in, riders hang on tight as each coaster climbs high up the canyon before heading down 2,195 feet of track as it races through old-growth forest, makes a 360-degree loop, before shooting through a 50-foot tunnel and out onto a stomach-churning cantilever extending out over the valley.
The coaster ride joins the park’s zipline, rock wall, canyon edge walk, axe throwing and rope course entertainments. Adventure Passes start at $64 (adults) and $55 (children). General admission tickets ($39, adult, $25, child) give visitors access to the country’s highest suspension bridge and walking trails. goldenskybridge.com.
Canadian travel plans for 2023
Canadians with extra cash to spend on travel this year aren’t booking destinations too far outside the usual escapes, according to Virtuoso, a luxury travel agency network. The top destination for Canadians? Mexico – and here longtime favourites such as Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta are the go-tos. Domestic travel ranks second, with cities such as Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver getting most visits. Third spot goes to the United States, followed by the Dominican Republic and coming in fifth is London, England. According to Úna O’Leary, Virtuoso’s general manager, Canada, all-inclusive stays are more important to Canadians (47 per cent versus 36 per cent globally), “especially as more all-inclusive resorts are becoming more luxury focused.”
Virtuoso’s rankings come from its 2022 Brand and Travel Trends survey, conducted in collaboration with YouGov, a market research firm that surveyed more than 500 Canadian travellers and combed through Virtuoso’s advance bookings for the results. The majority – 75 per cent – listed relaxation as the main reason for a leisure trip (no surprise there) but that answer was followed by adventure as the next best reason to travel. Interestingly, the poll revealed that seeking adventure on vacation is almost twice as important for Canadians as it is for global travellers.
The Top 5 destinations from an Expedia poll released this week are a little different. Expedia’s annual survey, which also notes 57 per cent of working adults say they are vacation deprived (up 2 per cent from last year), revealed that when they do get away, it’s often to a beach: Based on flight searches for international destinations, June through August, 2023, Canadians looking for flight deals on Expedia are heading to 1) Riviera Maya, Mexico; 2) Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; 3) Cancun, Mexico; 4) Montego Bay, Jamaica and 5) Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Basically, anywhere close to escape the cold.
Slow-travel TV is strangely soothing, and I can’t get enough of it. The concept was famously launched in 2009 by NRK, Norway’s public broadcaster, and hit headlines in 2011 when it broadcast 134 hours, 42 minutes and 45 seconds of a Hurtigruten ship sailing up the country’s coastline. In Norway, this sailing aired live for six days and captivated a nation, while shorter versions aired around the world as the scenery riveted more than three million views in 110 countries.
TVOntario has been running its own version of slow-TV as it uses cameras and drones to reveal the quiet pleasures of renowned Ontario destinations. The Tripping series has showcased hours of sailing up the Rideau Canal, bobbing along the rugged limestone coast of the Bruce Peninsula and churning up the Niagara River (this one has fantastic footage of the Horseshoe Falls where you can practically feel the cool mist). All Canadians can find these four-hour visual feasts (and shorter versions) on TVO’s website and YouTube channel. The latest, Tripping: Train 185, brings viewers into Northern Ontario on Via’s 480-kilometre train journey from Sudbury to White River. Viewers clickety-clack through boreal forest, past rocks and lakes, so many lakes! – with stops to pick up campers (all you need is an orange flag for the train to stop), canoes and coolers, then and drop them off at remote spots along the Canadian Shield. The footage even switches over to winter for a while to showcase the stark difference in sounds and scenery aboard Train 185. Tune in online: tvo.org/series-docs; youtube.com/@tvo
Make a coffee date with your closet
It may just look like another hoodie, it might even slip on like your new favourite everyday layer but this Helly Hansen piece is anything but ordinary. The Inshore hoodie is made from fabric laced with UPF protection that never washes out (something that’s often a challenge with clothing treated with chemicals for sun protection). Helly Hansen is using the S. Cafe fabric: Recycled coffee grounds are blended with recycled polyester granules to create a bio-based fabric that dries quickly and offers 40-plus UV protection. This process also makes the fabric naturally antimycobacterial, which means no chemical anti-odour finishes are added either. Each piece using the S. Cafe technology includes three recycled plastic bottles and three cups of used coffee grounds. New for the 2023 spring Sailing Crew collection, the Inshore layer adds a half-zip pullover in bright fun colours.
Women’s Inshore Half-zip Pullover, $75 through hellyhansen.com
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