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Falling Canadian dollar lures U.S. visitors across border

Cross-border trips by Americans entering Canada looking for a bargain are on the rise, according to Statistics Canada.

Car trips from U.S. up 5.4% in 2014, while one crossing reports 20% increase

Canadian border guards are shown at an inspection booth at the Canada-U.S. crossing in Surrey, B.C. Car trips from the U.S. were up 5.4 per cent last year as the low Canadian dollar made Canada a bargain destination for Americans. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Cross-border trips by Americans entering Canada looking for a bargain holiday are on the rise, according to Statistics Canada.

The Canadian dollar has fallen from 94 cents US last July to under 80 cents today, making trips to Canada cheaper for U.S. visitors.

Statistics Canada found that same-day car trips from the U.S. were up 5.4 per cent in the year to December 2014. Trips to Quebec were up 10 per cent and trips to Yukon up 12 per cent.

But by far the largest number of trips were to Ontario, with 382,504 U.S. visitors, and B.C. with 207,093.

At British Columbia's busiest border crossing, cars with American licence plates are lined up waiting to cross.

"Off hand, it looks like I was getting 20 per cent more for my dollar while I was up there," said Bill Postvanderburg, who planned to spend a few days in Victoria.

In February, 12,000 U.S. passports were scanned heading into Canada at the Peace Arch crossing, a 20 per cent increase from the previous year.

Americans are looking to shop and to spend on tourist attractions.

Kelly Levido of Vancouver Whale Watch in Steveston, B.C., is anticipating a busy season, once whale watching begins in April.

"We definitely have noticed an increase in tourists coming across the border and taking whale watching trips, and it looks like it is going to be another wonderful year as well," she said.

The last time the loonie was this low was 2009, when U.S. consumers were facing too much economic turmoil at home to attempt much holiday spending. But this year, the loonie is low and Americans have money in their pockets.

At the same time, Canadian trips south are on the wane, down nine per cent at one B.C. crossing.

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