Will Weaker Canadian Dollar Pinch US Tourism?

The value of the Canadian dollar has been declining in recent months, along with volatility in the oil market. Thursday, one Canadian dollar was worth about 80 cents in the United States.

In Vermont, a border state that depends on tourism as a critical component of its economy, some are concerned about whether the weaker Canadian dollar could impact visits.

"I think we’re going to see some attrition, but not the spigot being turned off in terms of travelers coming down," said Tom Torti, the president of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Numbers from the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing showed 667,000 Canadians visited Vermont in 2013. About a million more drove through Vermont on their way to someplace else, according to the recently-released 2013 Benchmark Study of the Impact of Visitor Spending on the Vermont Economy.

A few years ago, the Canadian and U.S. dollars were on par. “It’s a bit of a bummer,” said Donna Quinton of Pointe-Claire, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, describing the now-lower value of the Canadian dollar.

Quinton and her husband, Don, were visiting the Burlington area for a few days when New England Cable News met them on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace. “We’re coping,” Don Quinton said of the decline in value.

"We wouldn't take a major vacation in the States," Donna Quinton added. "But it’s such a nice little getaway [to Burlington] that we don't mind spending the extra money. If it went down to 70 cents, I think we'd think twice about it."

April Cornell, a fashion and textiles designer whose international retail business is based in Vermont, told NECN that Canadians really make the difference between her Burlington store doing well and just getting by.

"We need our Canadian customers," she said.

To keep Canadians coming, Cornell said she is now offering them 10 percent discounts if they flash their Canadian passports. That could soften the blow of their weaker currency, she indicated. Additionally, the businesswoman noted that retail taxes in Canada are greater than they are in Vermont, so that may make Canadians worry less about the difference in the values of the currency.

"On a lot of our product, like apparel, there's no tax, so that's another benefit for the customer," Cornell said. "When you add the two things together, it certainly makes things a little more equal."

The flip side, of course, to the pinch Canadians such as Don and Donna Quinton are experiencing, is that an American dollar is now worth about $1.20 north of the border.

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