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SUMMERSIDE - Islanders appear to be broadening their horizon when it comes to selecting their 2011 travel destination.
Local travel agents say Islanders are growing tired of the typical spring "down south" week and are now replacing relaxing on the beach in the Caribbean with extensive touring and exploring in Europe.
"Europe is definitely a big thing this year," says Summerside's Expedia Cruise Ship Centres manager Kathy Wood. "I think people are looking for more of an experience. You get tired of doing the same thing every year."
Wood says it has just been in recent years that Islanders really started to travel outside of Canada on a regular basis. Islanders started with trips to the Caribbean, but now that they have done that for a few years, they are ready for a change.
"Veggin' on the beach – they've done that. Europe is pure culture and history, so much to see and do. Once you start doing Europe you just can't get enough of it," said Wood.
She says Europe has become such a popular demand that she recommends travellers book one full year in advance of their desired departure date.
Employees of The Travel Store on Granville Street are experiencing the same European trend.
"We have a lot of European interest," says Travel Store manager Katie Irwin. "It's funny how trends go with P.E.I. In Ontario, a few years ago it was Italy and now there is a lot of interest in Italy here."
Popular Italian hot spots include Rome, Venice, Florence and Tuscany.
Irwin says now that Islanders have had their chance to travel they have begun to create lists of destinations they want to travel to. Travellers have checked the Caribbean off their list and are exploring alternate options.
Travelling to a European country is usually more expensive than a Caribbean destination and travellers tend to stay longer because there is more to see and do and easy access to surrounding attractions.
"People are feeling they've already done down south now they're looking for something a little different," said Irwin.
Maritime Travel manager Laura MacDonald believes the 2011 European boom is due to last year's European travel plans being interrupted by volcanic eruptions in Iceland. The volcano interfered with flights in and out of Europe during the peak spring travel season.
MacDonald says travellers who had to cancel their 2011 Europe travel plans are travelling this year, in addition to the 2011 travellers.
Alternate travel destinations proving to be popular for Islanders this year are Alaska and Jamaica.
Passport office situation unfair: Callbeck
Senator Catherine Callbeck is urging the federal government to ensure Islanders have access to full passport services on P.E.I.
Islanders are the only Canadians that have to travel outside of their province to obtain an urgent or express passport.
"These passports can only be obtained if one applies in person," said Callbeck. "Since there is no passport office in Prince Edward Island, we have to travel to the nearest office, which is in Fredericton or Halifax. It takes extra time. Time is of the essence in an emergency."
During Question Period in the Senate earlier this week, Callbeck noted Islanders also have to pay for fuel, ferry or bridge tolls, meals and possible overnight accommodation, in addition to extra passport fees for urgent or express processing.
"In the event of an emergency, a person does not need the added stress of worrying about a passport," said Callbeck. "Having to travel outside the province causes additional distress. There must be a safe and secure way to get an urgent or express passport in our own province."
Callbeck encouraged the federal government to explore all possibilities, including a full Passport Office or passport services combined with an existing federal office.