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Canada says tourism from US near all-time low; recession blamed
23 July 2009



TORONTO (AP) - The number of U.S. tourists visiting Canada is at a 37-year low and declining, mainly due to the recession, but stricter new U.S. passport rules are also to blame, the head of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said Thursday.

"We're at the lowest level since 1972," association president Randy Williams said. "American traffic has been an issue for seven or eight years, constantly dwindling."

The number of overnight trips by Americans to Canada has declined from 16.168 million in 2002 to 13.371 million in 2007, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada.

The drop in visitors is primarily a result of the recession-plagued economy, but Williams also said that new U.S. passport rules have not helped.

Since June 1, people traveling across the borders have been required since to show a passport or other acceptable form of identification such as an enhanced driver's license or NEXIS card.

Before the new rules, only government-issued ID was needed for travel between Canada and the U.S.

David Tetrault has noticed a 50 percent drop in business at his bed and breakfast in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He said the biggest impact of the new passport rules is in last-minute travel because the planning and time to get a passport has eliminated spontaneity.

Although U.S. border guards have been lenient so far with travelers who do not have their passports, Joanne Ferreira of the United States Customs and Border Patrol said compliance has been very high.

"Travelers are showing up with their approved documents and those that do not have their approved documents, we're still in that flexible period of time, and we're not denying entry as long as they are admissible and we can confirm their identity and citizenship," she said from Washington, D.C.
 

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Visitors bring a breath of fresh air
The decline in hotel occupancy slowed in July, even as piles of garbage grew

29 August 2009
The Globe and Mail

Unlike Toucan Sam, tourists don't follow their noses.

Despite the olfactory hazards of a 39-day garbage strike and a travel advisory in the San Francisco Chronicle that listed Toronto alongside Honduras, where the military had just overthrown the president, and North Africa, where there was an outbreak of bubonic plague, the city's tourism industry made a modest recovery in July.

Hotel occupancy was down only 8 per cent year over year during the month of the garbage strike, compared with a 12.8-per-cent decline in June and a 15.4-per-cent decrease in May, according to data compiled by Smith Travel Research. (The strike began on June 22.)

And both the Ontario Science Centre and the Toronto Zoo are reporting record numbers of visitors.

“Oh July! July was amazing,” said Christine Crosbie, a spokeswoman for the science centre.

“In July we had 150,000 visitors in one month. And that's up 25 per cent from last year.”

The Toronto Zoo has seen an increased number of visitors this summer. It had its millionth visitor on Aug. 12, earlier than any year in the past decade.

“We're 15 per cent above where we should be at this time of year,” said Cynthia Shipley, a spokeswoman for the zoo.

Maybe Mayor David Miller's CNN cameo encouraging tourists to visit Toronto actually worked.

“As far as the strike goes, we'll never know what the impact was,” said Andrew Weir, vice-president of communications for Tourism Toronto. Tourism is “obviously a multibillion-dollar industry with a lot of factors that affect it.

“And right now with the economy being what it is and affecting not only leisure travel but business travel, it's dwarfing any other factors out there.”

The result is that tourists tend to be more local, and many are taking day trips to places such as the science centre and the zoo, Mr. Weir said.

“Just my own observation walking through the [science centre's] parking lot, there's a lot of Ontarians,” said Ms. Crosbie.

The average revenues per hotel room were also down but showing signs of recovery.

Revenues were off 30.3 per cent year over year in May, 25 per cent in June and 18.6 per cent in July.

Smith Travel Research collected the data from participating hotels that accounted for approximately 83 per cent of the hotel rooms in Toronto.

*****

Checking in

Hotel occupancy rates in Toronto were down in July, but the decline wasn't as steep as it was in June or May.

OCCUPANCY (%)

May 2008 / 74.9

May 2009 / 63.4

June 2008 / 77.2

June 2009 / 67.4

July 2008 / 69.6

July 2009 / 64.1

Average room rate ($)

May 2008 / 117.65

May 2009 / 82.05

June 2008 / 120.50

June 2009 / 90.33

July 2008 / 93.35

July 2009 / 76.03
 
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