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Low Loonie good for northwestern Ontario tourism industry

BY CLAIRE CUDAHY

Things are looking up for the tourism industry in northwestern Ontario thanks to, among other things, the sliding Loonie.

“I’m more optimistic this year than I have been in the last five to seven years,” says Gerry Cariou, executive director for Ontario’s Sunset Country Travel Association.

With Americans dominating the tourism scene in Northwest Ontario, Canadian outfitters that charge American dollars stand to see a substantial benefit when they convert their money back to Canadian dollars this year, says Cariou.

At the time of press, the Loonie was valued at 80 cents US.

Cariou also points to lower fuel prices as a positive indicator for Americans traveling to Canada for fishing and hunting this summer, which he estimates accounts for roughly 85 per cent of the total spending on tourism in the region.

“Fuel, especially in the last few years with some spikes in energy costs, has been a major part of any kind of trip planning decision. The fact that it is about half of what it was just last summer, it bodes very well,” explains Cariou.

High consumer confidence ratings in the United States—how optimistic one feels about job prospects now and in the next six months—also indicate a good travel year for Americans making their way up north.

“They’re hitting very high levels compared to last year and certainly stratospheric high levels relative to just a few years back,” he adds.

These indicators coupled with a 160 per cent increase in travel inquiries year to date at Ontario’s Sunset Country Travel Association leads Cariou to estimate a five to seven per cent increase in travelers over last year.

Duane Riddell of Tourism Red Lake noted at the recent Chicago Pheasant Run Sports Show that although attendance was down slightly, there was an increase in return customers that hadn’t been back in quite a while signing up for trips.

On the other hand, the low Loonie may throw a wrench in the travel plans of Canadians with their sights set on the States.

Karen Pace of Red Lake Travel says that she has noticed a slight decrease in bookings for popular State-side winter destinations like Las Vegas and Phoenix, but with the influx of American fisherman calling in to book summer trips, she expects a thriving year for local tourism.

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