Near or far, high costs not slowing travel plans in Windsor-Essex

Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) debuted the 2022/2023 Official Visitor Guide Wednesday afternoon, encouraging those wanting to go travel, to stay close to home.

Officials say it’s just one of the steps to help reopen the local tourism industry.

“There’s a sense of hope and optimism that there are better days ahead and it’s time. It’s time to visit Windsor Essex,” said TWEPI CEO Gordon Orr. “This new visitor guide helps tell our story and we’re looking forward to residents embracing that.”

The guide will be distributed locally and digitally with campaigns across Ontario as a major marketing lure to bring visitors to the Windsor-Essex region.

“We are doing a destination lure that’s going to be mailed out to residents and throughout southwestern Ontario,” Orr said. “Right up to Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent, London, as well as we’re doing an extensive online campaign, the digital campaign, which will feature our visitor guide and will encourage people to come and stay with us.”

Orr said the added bonus is the new Ontario staycation tax credit that is applicable anywhere in the region.

“The return of tourism and hospitality industry, the reopening of it has been slow and incremental. So what we needed the full recovery but we’re nowhere near that yet,” he said.

Orr explained the Staycation Expo is set up at Devonshire Mall Thursday through Saturday with 45 vendors on hand to help people plan their summer itineraries.

“People are wanting to venture out but some of them not too far. But there’s so much room. There’s room to still do something here in Windsor-Essex, and venture further away,” he said.

Orr noted that the number one market segment that comes to visit the region includes friends and relatives that are visiting local loved ones.

“We’re better informing the residents of Windsor-Essex, so when their family and friends visit them this summer to get them off the living room couch or away from the dining room table and come out and explore the region,” he said.

A new aspect to the Staycation Expo is a staycation passport, an incentive program designed to help visitors explore all the stops at the expo.

Visitors can pick up a passport as they enter and get it stamped at eight different exhibitors displayed at Devonshire Mall for the chance to win a $500 mall gift card.

Meanwhile, local travel agents say the desire to travel is strong after two years of pandemic restrictions.

“The travel bug is definitely out there,” says Valente Travel owner, Al Valente. “And we’ve been completely swamped the last several months really. They just want to get out. They’ve got cabin fever for two years. They’re just tired of it and they want to get out and they want to experience life again because it’s changed people a lot during the pandemic so they do want to experience a lot of things.”

Valente told CTV News his Ouellette Avenue office is seeing many “generational trips” being planned with families going places together.

“COVID has brought people together so we’re seeing a lot more families traveling together. And we’re seeing a lot more of grandparents bringing the grandkids, spending more time because during COVID you realize that’s the most important thing,” he said.

Valente said despite high gas prices and rising inflation rates, travel is not being deterred.

“COVID has definitely changed the way people think about travel about their lives, really,” he said. “So I think it’s the YOLO thing, you only live once, and they really want to experience travel and the destinations and that’s what they’re doing right now.”

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