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A dollar and change

Jennifer Obleman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, October 01, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Outfitters may have trouble reeling in American fishers and hunters next year after the Canadian dollar hit a 30-year high last month.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Returning U.S. guests Bob Nemec and Gaylen Larson fishing at Lynx Tundra Lodge. With the Canadian dollar rising over $1 US in September, fewer American visitors are expected for next season. Instead, the Lodge will focus on Canadian markets. - photos courtesy of Dan Wettlaufer

Loonie Facts
  • The Canadian dollar hit an-all time high of $1.0614 US on Aug. 21, 1957
  • The dollar dropped to an all-time low of $0.6179 US on Jan. 1, 2002
  • $1 Canadian topped $1 US in September 2007 for the first time in more than 30 years-the last time it was this high was November 1976

    - source: Bank of Canada web site
  • "In effect, it's costing our U.S. visitors a lot more for the same trip," said Dan Wettlaufer, president of Reliance Airways, which owns Lynx Tundra Lodge, located about 200-kilometres east of Lutsel K'e.

    "Typically up to 50 per cent of our clientele is from the States. With their dollar decreasing in value, Americans tend not to travel as much, so we will refocus our efforts this winter. We might promote more within Canada and have more Canadians on our tours."

    Since his company's sales are based in U.S. dollars, Wettlaufer is already feeling the sting of the current exchange rate.

    "People who went fishing last week might have booked last year and paid $2,995 US, that's about $450 on that trip that we lose," said Wettlaufer.

    "We will have to substantially raise our rates for 2008 to catch up."

    The fluctuation in currency exchange rates is actually more significant than the rate itself, Wettlaufer noted.

    "The change in the exchange rate caught us by surprise because we obviously plan a year or two ahead," he said.

    "If it stays constant for the next year or two, we can work with that."

    It will be tough if it continues to rise, he added.

    The high Canadian dollar may be tough on the NWT tourism industry, but it may be good news for NWT tourists.

    According to an Angus Reid poll released last month, 49 per cent of Canadians are more likely to head for U.S. vacation destinations such as Disneyland now that the Canadian dollar has surpassed the American dollar.

    But Northerners aren't packing their suitcases and donning their Mickey Mouse ears just yet, according to Kyle Taylor, travel agent with Rapid Travel in Inuvik.

    "We haven't really seen a huge impact yet," said Taylor.

    "This time of year is really slow, so I can't really say the high dollar is affecting us now. It most likely will, though."

    Rapid Travel does about 10 to 20 bookings a month for trips outside of Canada. Most of those are not booked by permanent Northern residents, but by people who have come to work in the North for a year or two, Taylor said.

    "They don't want to stay here all winter. It's a long, cold winter, especially if you're not from here and you're not used to it," he said.

    Longtime locals are more likely to fly to Edmonton to go shopping than to head across the border.

    But with the current exchange rate, Taylor estimated a trip for two to Mexico would cost about $300 less than it would have three years ago. He's hoping the strong Canadian dollar will lead to an increase in international bookings.

    "I think it will go up. I don't think it will double, but I think it will go up," he said.