Donald Trump may not know it, but he's proving to be a boon for Canadian tourism.
CNN has coined the phenomenon the "Trump bump" — referring to the boost in tourism that Cape Breton, N.S. is hoping for this summer, thanks to anti-Trump sentiment.
It all began with some Americans making noise about moving to Canada if Trump, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, becomes the next president.
It may not translate into actual crowds of Americans relocating up north. But it looks like a lot more may visit thanks to U.S. media jumping on the story and highlighting what Canada has to offer.
Cape Breton, in particular, is basking in the limelight. At the local tourism office, the phone has been ringing off the hook for three weeks.
"We just weren't expecting this, but I say it with a smile," says Mary Tulle, the CEO of Destination Cape Breton.
'Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins'
Cape Breton's "Trump bump" began with a tongue-in-cheek website created last month by local radio DJ Rob Calabrese.
Titled Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins, the site urges Trump refugees to consider moving to the Eastern Canadian island. As an enticement, it highlights the region's beauty, unique culture and cheap real estate.
The site captured the attention of potential American defectors — those outraged with Trump's proposals such as building a wall along the Mexican border and imposing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US.
Massive American media coverage soon followed. A CNN TV crew even trekked to Cape Breton last week.
"The peace and serenity of Cape Breton Island in Canada is a long way from the bold and brash American vision Donald Trump is peddling," stated the CNN TV report, which aired on international global affairs show Amanpour.
Flood of free publicity
In covering the buzz created by the website, many media outlets noted that the region is a mighty nice place. A followup CNN online article stated, "With its stunning natural beauty, Cape Breton Island ... is a magnet for tourists."
A Fox News TV story included snippets from a Cape Breton tourism video, and the reporter declared the island "gorgeous."
Tulle says all the attention translates into millions of dollars worth of free publicity.
"I am absolutely delighted," says the tourism CEO.
She reports that since the fanfare began in mid-February, more than 470,000 visitors have checked out Destination Cape Breton's web site — a spike of more than 4,000 per cent from the same period last year.
Tulle's tourism office has also been inundated with inquiries, forcing her to hire extra help.
"We had to bring our summer team colleagues back," she says.
It appears to be paying off. Tulle reports that local tourism operators are already seeing a spike in bookings.
Graham Hudson says last week a man from New York called his Cape Breton resort, Keltic Lodge. He booked a cottage for a week in July for about $5,000.
"He had never heard of us, never heard of Cape Breton," says Hudson. But he became intrigued after watching the CNN report.
"I was over the moon," says the resort manager.
Newfoundland the new Venice?
Cape Breton isn't the only Canadian destination that could see a tourism "Trump bump."
The popular women's fashion magazine Vogue published an online article last week titled, "For the Trump-Phobic: A Local's Guide to Moving to Canada." It lists several Canadian destinations that Americans may want to call home.
While droves of Americans may never end up emigrating to Canada, the list could inspire their next travel plans.
The article begins with a shout-out to Newfoundland, declaring that it is "one of those rarefied places on earth — like Venice or Iceland — so magical and elemental in its beauty you can't believe it's real."
Montreal is praised for being "exotic" with great festivals, culture and shopping. The article adds that "Vancouver is known for its exceptional physical beauty and outdoor lifestyle."
Teen Vogue got in on the act with a similar article.
Noting that Cape Breton had already gotten a lot of attention, the article suggests Americans take a look at Vancouver Island with its better climate.
"Plus, you've got orcas, wild salmon, and the mountains. In other words: bliss," states the author.
Canada's worth the trip
Tourism expert Gabor Forgacs says the media coverage is helpful because Americans typically don't view Canada as a vacation destination.
"We are perceived by the world as lovely people, awesome quality of life," says Forgacs, but, for Americans, "that image doesn't translate into picking a vacation destination. We're not seen as exciting."
He believes a campaign like Cape Breton's, no matter how humorous, helps raise awareness that Canada is worth visiting — especially when the loonie is much lower than the U.S. dollar.
"We need to educate the Americans about the value proposition we've got," says Forgacs, a professor with the Ted Rogers School of Tourism Management in Toronto.
Based on Cape Breton's success, says Forgacs, if he were in the tourism business, he'd develop a national site, TrumpDodgers.ca.
"I would put money on that. That would be a winner," he says.