Soaring dollar doesn't faze west coast tourism operators

Katherine Hudson
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Not counting on U.S.visitors

On Tuesday morning, the loonie's value was on par with that of the American dollar for the first time in almost two years. Although this means cheaper shopping for Canadians south of the border, it also means a potential decrease in American visitors to Canada.

Visitors from outside Canada could find travelling to the country less affordable than in the past which would affect businesses such as hotels, restaurants and other tourism operations.

Kathleen Simms takes a reservation at the front desk of the Driftwood Inn Tuesday afternoon. - Photo by Katherine Hudson/The Western Star

Deer Lake -

On Tuesday morning, the loonie's value was on par with that of the American dollar for the first time in almost two years. Although this means cheaper shopping for Canadians south of the border, it also means a potential decrease in American visitors to Canada.

Visitors from outside Canada could find travelling to the country less affordable than in the past which would affect businesses such as hotels, restaurants and other tourism operations.

Local businesses who cater to tourists don't think the change in currency values will have a big impact on the numbers they will see this summer.

Kathleen Simms works at the front desk of the Driftwood Inn in Deer Lake.

Although she has only worked at the hotel for one summer season, she said she didn't notice a vast number of American tourists.

"I did see some people come in from the U.S. Summertime is when you get the most coming from other places like that. We get mostly Newfoundlanders and Canadians from out west. Summertime is busy. There are a lot of people travelling here, but in regards to Americans, they don't make up a big amount," she said.

Irene Pittman is co-owner of the Big Falls Tourist Lodge. She said hardly any American visitors stay at her facility.

"I see mostly Nova Scotians and Newfoundlanders. They come here to do snowmobiling and salmon fishing. We don't see many people from the U.S.," she said.

In an extensive visitors' survey created in 2004 to study tourism numbers at Gros Morne National Park, it stated 111,472 non-resident visitors to the park made up about 25 per cent of the total visiting the province.

Of the total number of visitors to the park in 2004, 30 per cent were from Newfoundland, 42 per cent came from other Canadian provinces and 13 per cent came from the United States.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation developed a year-end tourism performance report for 2009 which included an early outlook for 2010. The report states in 2009, overnight trips from the United States declined six per cent.

The report acknowledged the rising strength of the Canadian currency, stating "a strengthening dollar and a year-over-year increase in average airfares to Canada have resulted in a decrease in Canada's price competitiveness for U.S. travellers."

The Canadian dollar has been edging upward in value since it bottomed out at 61.79 cents U.S. in 2002. The current rise is in part due to global investors reacting to currencies of countries with low debt and strong economies as well as speculation that the Bank of Canada will raise interest rates around June.

The Western Star

Organizations: Driftwood Inn, Department of Tourism, Bank of Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Deer Lake, United States Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland Western Star

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