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Saskatchewan, Anyone?


Americans still vacationing, but closer to home.

The dollar is a 99-cent weakling against the Euro and the British Pound, but that hasn't stopped many Americans from planning to travel abroad this year.

A survey conducted by Visa (V) found that 66% of respondents said they were as willing or more willing to travel to a foreign country this year than a year ago. Half the respondents said they're likely to travel to another country in the next year. But of that 50%, about 66% said they're considering countries closer to the United States than they had visited in previous years. Nevertheless, about 20% say they're planning an expensive trip.

Canada was the most popular destination, followed by Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, France, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The rankings were similar to last year's.

In May, Visa surveyed 1,000 credit or debit cardholders living in the United States who have traveled abroad in the last three years. The phone survey wasn't limited to Visa cardholders and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus three percentage points.

Visa found that U.S. visitors to Canada spent $2.9 billion; Mexico came in second, with $1.7 billion.

Overall, spending at foreign destinations appears to be down. In the first quarter of 2008, U.S. Visa cardholders sprinkled $3.4 billion at the top 25 tourist destinations compared with $15 billion in all of 2007.

Among those who said they're not planning to travel abroad, most cited high costs and fretted about the current state of the U.S. economy.

Only 14% cited the threat of terrorism as a reason for staying home.

Most travelers said they planned to book online through a website like Expedia (EXPE), Orbitz (OWW) or Travelocity, a subsidiary of Sabre Holdings.

The airlines are hurting despite traveler optimism. The nation's four largest airlines -- American (AMR), United (UAUA), Delta (DAL) and Continental (CAL) -- are part of industry-wide cutbacks that include grounding at least 465 planes and cutting about 26,000 jobs.

The Air Transport Association, a trade group based in Washington, D.C., estimates the airline industry may lose as much as $13 billion in 2008.

For the airlines, travel to Canada -- the most popular destination this year -- doesn't really raise a chorus of "O, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan" or set the cash registers ringing.
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