Nova Scotia businesses that count on summer visitors are afraid it will be a slow year with American tourists staying home, judging by the start to the season, say tourism operators.

The paintings and crafts are back along Spring Garden Road in Halifax but vendors say there aren’t many customers.

"No tourists, no buses stopping here. There's usually five or six a day, so it's been bad so far," vendor Carl Peters said Thursday.

Gary Powell, vice-president with Ambassatours Gray Line in Halifax, said that his company's bookings are down between 10 and 22 per cent from last year.

He said the drop in tourism is part of a global trend. The combination of gas prices creeping up and the Canadian dollar getting stronger works against attracting American tourists, he said, especially at a time when many people are worried about losing their jobs and investments.

"One of the first things that gets cut is people's leisure monies, and travel falls into that area, you know, ahead of certainly food and housing and all of that," Powell said.

But he's is predicting a strong summer for cruise ships visiting the province, as cruise lines are offering deep discounts — even two for one offers.

Yarmouth not buzzing

Business owners in Yarmouth are also predicting that this summer will be one of the slowest yet.

The high-speed Cat ferry travels daily to Yarmouth from Bar Harbour, Maine, and Portland, Maine, but that hasn't helped business at the upscale restaurant Chez Bruno Bistro.

"Well, we see less people moving around, so it doesn’t point to something very positive. However, we just keep hoping," chef Bruno Sieberath said Thursday.

He said he usually adds extra staff during the summer months but this year he's just trying to survive.

"People that come with the Cat want to come quickly to Nova Scotia and go to the destination, which is definitely not Yarmouth," Sieberath said.

He said he used to advertise for tourists outside Nova Scotia, but now he doesn't bother.

Blair Smith, manager of the Souvenir Shoppe in Yarmouth, said the town is a dead zone so far this year.

"The high Canadian dollar, high gas prices, the new passport law. It’s just a bad situation all the way around," Smith said.