A fairly detailed survey of tourism-related businesses on both sides the Canada-USA border shows that the weakened Canadian dollar (or loon) has had a negative impact on the nuber Canadian travelers who make the short drive to the United States for shopping, overnight and weekend stays. (An estimated 75 percent of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border.) More than a quarter of surveyed tourism-related businesses on the New York side of St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Lakes region said that the 2015 travel season was worse than the previous year. The correlation between the decline of the Canadian dollar and Visit USA traffic from seems inescapable.
Start with the key variable—the currency exchange rate. This year, 2016, started off with the loonie valued at $0.71 to the U.S. dollar (down 14 percent vs. last year and down 24 percent from January 2014, when it was at 93 cents).
The survey—it is an annual undertaking conducted by the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, in Alexandria Bay, New York, just across the St. Lawrence River from Ontario and about 100 miles south of Ottawa—was sent this past fall to 510 tourism-related businesses in the council’s database, yielding a total of 214 responses that included 124 from Jefferson County businesses, 76 from Ontario businesses and 14 that didn’t identify their location. It contained a variety of questions about the six-month travel season from May through October. No narrative is necessary when one reviews some of the survey report’s key tables, which appear below.
Discussing the impact of the weak Canadian dollar, Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the 1000 Islands Council, told the Watertown Daily Times, which reported on the survey, “When it dips below 80 cents, they’re paying more for stuff in the U.S.,” adding that passenger statistics at the 1000 Islands Bridge show Canadians crossed the border fewer times than last year. The trend benefited Ontario businesses, he said, which retained Canadian shoppers and lured more Americans who capitalized on the weak Canadian dollar.
“Obviously, we were fighting an uphill battle in terms of the dollar exchange,” he added, suggesting that many Canadians decided it wasn’t worth it to cross the border to shop.