Low Canadian dollar could see Alberta tourism numbers snowball

Tourism industry representatives are optimistic business could snowball this winter with the exchange rate providing a big incentive for Americans to visit.

With the Canadian dollar’s value sitting well below the U.S. dollar’s — worth about 86 U.S. cents over the weekend — more Americans may be looking north in order to capitalize on the exchange.

It happens to coincide well with ski and snowboard season.

“It’s actually playing very well in our favour,” said Steve Paccagnan, president and CEO of Panorama Mountain Resort and head of the board at the Canada West Ski Areas Association.

“It’s great news on many fronts for tourism.

“When we have an attractive exchange rate, like what we’re seeing now, it starts to bring not only new markets, but markets that had gotten soft for awhile back into the industry.”

There are big implications of a healthy season for winter tourism, as it can help promote summer tourism and also establish visitors who will return in the years to come, said Paccagnan.

Continuing to market Canada’s ski hills in the right places at the right time will be key to encouraging investments, he added.

Matt Mosteller with Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, said the exchange rate and quality of snow are two key factors in the number of Americans lured over the border for ski vacations.

The variety of terrain and the experience of staying in an authentic Canadian mountain town are added draws, he said.

“You can absolutely correlate growth from the U.S. with the exchange rate,” he said.

“We’ve had strong early indications of growth with U.S. bookings this year and a strong uptake in inquiries and social media and other communication from U.S. guests.

“They’re saying, ‘Hey, the exchange rate is great — what’s the snow looking like?’

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous year.”

Royce Chwin, CEO of Travel Alberta, said numbers from January through September of this year already showed a 4.2% increase in U.S. overnight visitors from the same period in 2013.

The exchange rate is a big draw, and the low price of fuel makes road trips even more cost-effective, said Chwin.

”We’re really cautiously optimistic that this trend will continue to improve based on what we’ve seen so far,” he said.

It’s also possible the exchange rate will cause Canadians to travel closer to home, said Cwhin, meaning the tourism industry may get an extra boost from locals.


On Twitter: @SunJMac

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