TORONTO - The only thing falling faster than the value of the Canadian dollar these days is the number of Canadians crossing the border into the United States.
According to a report released recently by Toronto-based TD Bank, cash-strapped Canadians will make three million fewer trips into the U.S. this year and next, thanks mainly to the fact our currency has been devalued by almost 30 per cent in the last 18 months versus the rebounding U.S. Greenback.
That same report says the 23.5 million Canadians who cross the border annually - 80 per cent are overnight stays or same-day trips - contribute about $22.3 billion to the U.S. economy. However, now that fewer Canucks are crossing, Canadian spending in the U.S. this year is expected to drop by about $4.5 billion, according to TD.
Needless to say, border states and communities are going "loonie" trying to figure out ways to get Canadians back.
Shopping outlets in the Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York area, who rely heavily on traffic from the Toronto and Southern Ontario areas, are offering lots of incentives to Canadians to make the crossing but according to the Canada Border Services, the agency who protects our southern border, traffic into the United States has been noticeably “weaker” this summer.
Left: The rooms at the Beach Club are colourful and inviting. Right: The bedrooms at Hidden Pond are quaint and luxurious.
However, they are having more success luring Canadians back to the sleepy vacation hamlet of Kennebunkport, Maine, the summer home of the presidential Bush family - that’s where 91-year-old George H.W. Bush fell a few weeks ago and is now recuperating from his injuries.
In response to a 25 per cent decline in Canadian traffic due to the lower loonie, the Kennebunkport Resort Collection (KRC), which represents eight hotels and seven restaurants in the lovely Maine community, is offering their northern neighbours a 20 per cent discount at four if its more popular resorts.
And according to Rachel Pelkey, marketing manager for the KRC, the move is already paying off.
“We’ve seen our reservations from Canada pick up steadily since we introduced the 20 per cent discount,” reports Pelkey, who says the offer will run throughout August and up to September 3.
The KRC family is made up of charming cottages, elegant New England-style inns, luxurious bungalows and homes located near Kennebunkport’s pristine beach.
The four KRC hotels offering the 20 per cent discount include the lovely Hidden Pond property, the Lodge on the Cove and Tides Beach Club.
Hidden Pond is especially inviting to Canadians. This hidden gem of New England resorts is tucked away in a pristine birch forest and the 60 acres of surrounding wilderness is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Montreal and Toronto, the two northern cities where most Canadian visitors to Maine hail from.
Left: The garden at Hidden Pond Resort and the Tree Spa are just two of the unique features here. Right: The Lodge on the Cove is perfect for families and small groups.
There’s even a farm on the Hidden Pond property where guests can purchase locally grown herbs, flowers and veggies and meet the resort’s resident artist, Judith, whose water-colours will remind you of your stay in Kennebunkport long after your visit.
The property’s new Tree Spa - the treatment “rooms” are actually located atop four trees 24 metres above the ground - is the talk of the industry and the treatments are reportedly among the best on the East Coast. The spa rooms are connected by a catwalk woven through the trees and overlook the property’s amazing beach forest. Treatments include facials and body massages and focus on the restoration of health. Many of the ingredients used in the lotions and oils at the Tree Spa come directly from Hidden Pond’s enchanting garden.
Hidden Pond’s sister property, the Tides Beach Club, which is also offering the 20 per cent discount to Canadians, sits like a giant doll house on the shores of Goose Rock Beach and offers some of the most amazing ocean vistas anywhere.
Quaint is the only word that adequately describe the Tides Beach Club, whose coastal decor invites visitors to curl up with a good book and relax. The petit marbel bathrooms and unique rooms all add to the ambience of this property.
Left: Kids will love the pool and ice cream bar at the Lodge on the Cove. Right: The regional dishes served up at the KRC group hotels and restaurants are gourmet.
Another KRC member, The Lodge on the Cove is a family-friendly resort where even the Bush clan would feel right at home. This is the classic motor lodge with attitude and is one of the most welcoming places for large families and small groups. The kids will especially like the retro ice cream bar next to the pool.
Ironically, in many ways - discounts being offered by hotel groups like Maine’s KRC and the lower gas prices in the United States - there’s really never been a better time for Canadians to visit the U.S.
Thankfully our American neighbours are helping the loonie make “cents” again.