Low dollar has American tourists flocking to southern Ontario
It might not be the heady days of the late 1990s all over again, but American tourists are once again traipsing to Stratford in greater numbers.
“Americans are coming back. We’ve seen a slight upturn from last year,” said Larry McCabe, the chair of the Stratford Tourism Alliance.
Like most in the tourism world, McCabe believes the performance of the Canadian dollar is a major factor in the influx of cross-border gawkers.
While the dollar hovered around parity with its U.S. counterpart for the first few years of the decade, it’s been on a steady decline since late 2013 – falling below 80 cents U.S. in recent months.
Combine that with low gas prices, and it seems to be enough to renew Americans’ interest in visiting their northern neighbour.
Cross-border tourism fell sharply in the mid-2000s, due to increased border security and cuts to tourism funding.
While the Stratford Tourism Alliance doesn’t have any specific data available looking at this summer’s numbers of American visitors, McCabe says anecdotal evidence like licence plates visible around town suggest an increase.
At women’s clothing store Grace the Boutique, owner Laura Vandenberg says Americans make up as much as half of her customer base.
“We see a lot of Americans coming up from all over – Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, New York,” she said.
And Stratford isn’t the only city seeing a tourism boost thanks to the low loonie.
“What we’re seeing is about a 20 per cent increase in American travellers,” said Deb Dalziel, the co-ordinator of Elora Fergus Tourism.
While visitors there seem to be mostly from Michigan, Dalziel says they’ve noticed an increased number of international tourists from all over – not just from the United States.
Intra-Canada tourism seems to be on the upswing as well.
“People are staying at home, or closer to home,” McCabe said.
“They’re not making the trips to the States, and we’re happy to have them coming through here.”