Fewer Visitors From Canada as Loonie Lags Behind, But Overall Tourism Strong

by Katie Gibas, YNN

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — With the Canadian dollar the weakest it has been in more than a decade, there are fewer Canadians stepping up to exchange their loonies into dollars. Earlier this year, the currency started to lose value. In September, the loonie hit an 11-year-low of 74 cents on the U.S. dollar. As a result, tourism officials have already seen a dip in traffic from the North.

“It was very concerning to me because they’re such a good portion of our visitor traffic,” said John Percy, Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation President & CEO.

“You have a diminishing (amount) since last year. June numbers are the last ones we have. It was down across all the bridges, from 5 percent at the Peace Bridge to 24 percent at the Whirlpool Bridge,” said Craig Turner, Momentum Public Affairs President, Can-Am Border.

Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation reports the Fashion Outlets and restaurants and hotels on Niagara Falls Boulevard have seen a dip in Canadian traffic.

“Canadian dollars coming across the border have for a long time kept our local communities, our towns, our villages, our counties ripe with cash because of the sales tax and now that’s going to change,” Turner said, “and that’s something our elected officials have to pay attention to.”

Tourism for the area however is at a record high, thanks to increases in domestic and other foreign travelers.

“We have a very, very strong tourism season in spite of a weak Canadian dollar and I think that’s a positive sign that there’s enough diversity in our tourism and our retail and restaurant market that we’re able to weather the storm when the Canadian dollar is very weak,” said Mayor Paul Dyster, D-Niagara Falls.

While the numbers have been good this year, tourism officials are keeping a close eye on what the Canadian dollar is doing and coming up with advertising and marketing strategies to continue to encourage Canadian shoppers to this side of the border.

“We have to stay in the forefront. We have a large campaign with Visit Buffalo Niagara where we’ve spent $600,000 this year,” Percy said. “By showcasing family activities, shopping activities, girlfriend getaway activities, there’s five different focuses in this digital campaign and the results are strong.”

Percy says hotels and restaurants may want to look at some of the marketing tools from the last time the loonie was this weak, including offering Canadian money at par.

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