Thursday, August 30, 2007

US tourism to Canada declines

There is no specific data on tourists from countries other than the US. The by the numbers section does not list the money spent in Canada by Americans. In spite of the decline perhaps there is still a balance in Canada's favor. Who can tell the way the data is presented.
It is not surprising there is a decline given the fact that our dollars will soon be close to par. The tourist gurus of course think of the issue in terms of branding. We should up our image to an exotic but more expensive destination. However much of Canada is similar to the adjacent US states. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota and part of Montana are quite similar except that Winnipeg is larger than any city in North Dakota. As mentioned as well worries about border crossing may be a factor.
On the matter of being cheap, friends who live near the border in Manitoba go to the US because they think it is cheap with our dollar so strong.


Boring and not-so cheap

August 30, 2007

Fewer Americans made the trip north in the first three months of this year, making it the weakest first quarter for overnight visits from the U.S. in a decade.

According to data from Statistics Canada, there were fewer than 1.8-million overnight trips to Canada by Americans in the quarter, down 6.3 per cent from the same quarter of 2006. It was the eighth consecutive year-over-year quarterly decrease.

"I think we have a 'lack of an image' problem," said Mark Weisbarth, president of Due North Communications, a Toronto advertising agency. "I think we are just not seen as exotic or interesting in the way that other countries are."

Martin Beauvais, creative director at Toronto ad firm Zig Inc., said Canada's image problem lies in not being expensive enough.

"We're probably in their minds a cheap place to go, or a cheap alternative to the States, which is terrible," he said. "You want to go to London, you want to go to Paris ... you go to Canada because it's cheap."

Gas prices were only slightly higher in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2006, according to the report.

Some said the confusion over passport rules may have contributed to the decrease.

Since January, anyone flying between the U.S. and Canada has been required to carry a passport. Although the law doesn't apply to those travelling by car, experts suggested many thought it did.Howard Blank is the vice-president of Richmond, B.C.-based Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns 18 casinos and race tracks across Canada, many within driving distance of the U.S. border.

"We have noticed the U.S. visitor has gone down while some of the other countries' visitors have either remained the same or gone up," he said. "I think that is all due to the fact that many U.S. visitors are worried about the border, and passports and identification whereas in the past it was basically show your driver's licence and you're in."

And now that the Canadian dollar is trading closer to par with its American counterpart, U.S. travellers aren't getting as much bang for their buck as they once did. "It wasn't five years ago that if you were an American coming up to Canada, fundamentally you could stay two nights and the third night was free when the dollar was trading at 66 cents," said Tony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada. "Now the dollar is 94 cents and it doesn't make any difference any more."

Of the10 states that supply the most overnight travellers to Canada, eight sent fewer than last year. Michigan travellers posted the largest decrease with 16.9 per cent fewer overnight trips in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2006.

Christine Melnyk is the general manager of Quality Suites Downtown hotel in Windsor, located just across the Detroit River from Michigan.

"Our numbers are down, particularly earlier this year when I think there was confusion about the passport issue," she said. "January and February were very soft for this market. There's still a fairly high level of confusion on the passport issue."

American spending in Canada was down 5 per cent compared with the first quarter of 2006, at an estimated $915-million.

Real Robichaud, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said the Atlantic provinces have seen fewer Americans on their streets over the past three or four years.

"Certainly there's the exchange rate," he said. "Price of gas is another reason, but you also have the security aspect."

Part of the problem is that Americans typically travel less while they're at war, he said.


By the numbers

3.6 million

Number of overnight trips by Canadians to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2007, up 4.8 per cent from the same period last year.


Amount of money Canadians spent in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2007, up 5 per cent from the same period last year.


Amount of money Canadians spent in the U.S. in 2006, up 7.3 per cent from the previous year.

1 million

Number of overnight trips by Canadians to Florida - the most popular state to visit - in the first quarter of 2007, up 14 per cent.


Amount of money Canadians spent in Florida in the first quarter of 2007, up 10 per cent from the previous year.

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