The timing couldn't be better for Canada's Expo 86 if they had used a crystal ball way back in the early planning stages.
Vancouver's World Exposition will throw open its doors on May 2, and judging by advance ticket sales the public is ready for this one. As of mid-March, more than 12 million tickets had already been bought and paid for; Canada's goal is to sell 13.58 million tickets to Expo.
Not that anyone could have predicted the turnabout on the travel scene that is working in Expo's favor, but Vancouver certainly stands ready to take full advantage of it.
The numbers of group and individual tickets already sold, and the hotel rooms already booked, show that plenty of American travelers are looking north to Canada this summer instead of overseas.
Airlines and travel agents report a sharp reduction in the number of Americans planning trips to Europe this year, due at least in part to bombings and other violence at several airport terminals.
And the cruise ships are staying away from the Mediterranean in droves this summer because of the incidents of terrorism that have plagued that area. Many of them have decided to head for the coastline of Western Canada and Southeast Alaska instead, and they'll be stopping in at Expo with shiploads of passengers to add to the daily attendance.
Officially, Canada expects 15 million visits to Expo (one visit equals one person at Expo for one day). They expect 60% to be Canadians, 30% from the United States and the rest from other countries.
More than 90 nations, provinces, territories, states (California, Oregon and Washington) and corporations will participate in Expo, May 2 to Oct. 13. The theme is "Man in Motion," with exhibits on transportation and communications.
Expo 86 will mark the first time that the United States, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China will participate at an international exposition together at a North American site. Other countries participating include Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Japan, nine Caribbean islands, Kenya, Peru, Indonesia, Mexico, Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Brunei, Cuba, Switzerland, Germany and many more. Seven island nations will participate in a South Pacific pavilion.
Tall ships will set sail with fishing boats and ferryboats, tugs and barges, canoes, kayaks and research vessels in "Ships of the World," July 25-28, a continuous parade along False Creek at the edge of Expo. Some will visit for a few days, including Jacques Cousteau's wind-driven, turbine-powered Alcyone. Others will stay on at Expo, including a junk from China and a dhow from Pakistan.
The province of British Columbia came up with the idea of Expo 86 in 1978 as a way to mark Vancouver's centennial as well as the 100th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad's arrival at Canada's West Coast terminus.
Expo's main site is 130 acres along the waterfront of False Creek in the heart of Vancouver. The Canadian host pavilion is Canada Place, a little more than a mile away on the harbor front alongside the city's new cruise ship facility.
A new rapid-transit system links the two sites. It's called Sky Train although it's part subway and part elevated. Expo is financed by direct revenue and a special lottery. If all goes as planned, Canada will spend $350 million more on Expo than it will take in, but the reward is expected to be a plus of $3.5 billion for the economy as a whole.
Special events will include regattas, air shows, military tattoos, parades and a solar sail space mission.
The American and Soviet pavilions will exhibit space exploration technology. The Chinese plan to show "travel in time," with exquisite objects from the distant past and historic engineering feats to modern communication systems.
"Ramses II and His Times" is a pavilion devoted to the artistic and architectural treasures of ancient Egypt.
The Japanese will demonstrate their magnetic levitation train that literally flies along a centimeter above its tracks to reach speeds of 280 m.p.h.
In addition to the 80 pavilions, other attractions include a monorail over the Expo site, a sky ride in a gondola, 70 eating places from fast-food outlets to international gourmet restaurants. More than forty participants have already moved into their pavilions and within the next few weeks 800 container loads of exhibits will arrive on the site.
An Expo ticket includes admission to the 80 pavilions, plazas and theaters on site, rides on the monorail, two sky rides and an intra-site ferry system.