There are a host of reasons Canadians may be choosing to spend their summer vacations at home this year, like the weak loonie, or the “Buy Canadian” movement, but lower prices could also be a major driving factor. 

Domestic flight fares are down 19 per cent overall this Canada Day weekend from the same time last year, and hotel rates have decreased two per cent, according to data compiled by Kayak. 

“In terms of the price changes, there are a lot of different factors that go into that,” Steve Sintra, Kayak’s country manager for Canada, told BNN Bloomberg in a phone interview, noting new routes from major carriers, and the introduction of a new low-cost carrier as contributing factors. 

The travel site analyzed searches made between Jan. 1, 2018 and May 29 for travel between June 28 and July 3, and compared it with similar dates last year. 

Sintra noted that while data for Canada Day weekend is the most recent, there’s been a general trend lower for domestic fares all year.

“So it wasn't just Canada Day weekend, or the time frame that we searched during,” he said. “We've seen this trend pretty consistently throughout the year."  

Travel search site Expedia found similar trends, with fares to Edmonton, Vancouver, and Gaspe showing the biggest decrease year-over-year for this weekend (all were roughly 20 per cent cheaper).

Expedia data revealed Calgary-Ottawa was the route that dropped in price the most – nearly 30 per cent year-over-year – as booking volume decreased 25 per cent. Meanwhile, flights from Vancouver to Toronto saw less of a discount, dropping 10 per cent while booking volume increased 20 per cent year-over-year.

The company also noted search volume for Ottawa was roughly 70 per cent lower compared to last year’s Canada Day long weekend when there was a big tourism push for Canada 150 celebrations.

Toronto gaining popularity

There was more interest for travel to Toronto this year, Expedia and Kayak found.

Expedia’s data revealed overall search volume for Toronto increased roughly five per cent year-over-year.

Toronto was the most popular place to book flights this year for six provinces –  Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan – Kayak found, as hotel prices on average dropped 14 per cent, sitting around $267 per night on average, and flight fares dipped three per cent. 

"I think historically, we've seen Toronto be a very popular destination for Canadian travellers, but we've seen a pretty significant price drop this year," Sintra said. 

"So we think that's certainly made it a good destination for travellers on a budget."

When it came to places to stay, Kayak found the priciest hotels this weekend were in Alberta, with room rates averaging $307 per night, while Manitoba was the cheapest province to stay with the average hotel price hovering around $153. 

Interest in low-cost carrier destinations surges   

Interest in low-cost carrier destinations rose sharply for some Canadians as more competition entered the market.

There was an uptick for Albertans searching for flights to Abbotsford, B.C. (171 per cent) compared with last year, and significantly more Manitobans (90 per cent) showed interest in flying to Hamilton, Kayak found.

Swoop, WestJet’s new ultra-low-cost carrier, announced it would be travelling to Abbotsford and Hamilton at the start of February, with service launching last week. Flair, another Canadian low-cost carrier, also travels to these destinations.