Go south with a spring in your step

If you’ve been feeling the slightest bit guilty about contributing to Canada’s balance of payments deficit with frequent trips to the U.S., you can now rest easy. Figures released this week from the Canadian Tourism Commission show that the loonies we’re blowing south of the border on margueritas and mall excursions are being offset by a record number of Americans visiting Canada.

Attracted by the bargain exchange rate (and no doubt our many fine tourist attractions) our southern neighbours spent $1.4 billion in Canada in the first three months of this year, a 17.5 per cent increase over the same period last year. Tourists from countries other than the U.S. spent 10.2 per cent more, an all-time first quarter high of $904 million.

"This growth is exciting because it is happening in the January to March period, Canada’s winter months, traditionally a low period," said Doug Fyfe, president and CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission. "Our efforts to develop and market Canada as a premier four-season destination are paying off."

Everybody’s happy, because while foreign visitors were creating jobs and traffic here, we werspending up a storm around the world. The International Travel Account from Statistics Canada shows Canadians spent $1.8 billion in countries other than the U.S., an 8.6 per cent rise. Overall, our international travel deficit in the first quarter of 1999 fell by 7.4 per cent to $2.4 billion.

So enjoy your next vacation, wherever you spend it and your money. Canada jumped to ninth position overall as a world tourism earner last year and our industry is looking forward to an even busier, more profitable 1999. The more often we leave to visit other countries, the more room for all those free-spending foreign tourists here.