Low loonie forces some P.E.I. tourists to change destinations

The weak Canadian dollar is keeping some Islanders from their favourite spots in the sunny southern United States, say some P.E.I. travel agents, while others aren't letting it ruin their fun.

'All-inclusive packages have certainly gained strength over what they were last year'

Many Islanders are heading to Mexico or the Caribbean with all-inclusive packages instead of the U.S. (Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The weak Canadian dollar is keeping some Islanders from their favourite spots in the sunny southern United States, say some P.E.I. travel agents, while others aren't letting it ruin their fun. 

The loonie has been slowly trending downward over the last four years, closing out Friday at just under 72 cents U.S. Some say it could go much lower over the coming months. 

"I've had quite a few people that have either kind of put off their travel plans, especially for Florida for the March breakers," said George Stewart who runs the independent Travels By George.

Obviously it's not ideal but it's warm in Florida and cold here so it's worth the trouble.— Rita Boutilier, traveller

"Instead of doing it this year a lot of people said well you know what, maybe this year isn't the year that we'll do it. Maybe we'll wait until next year."

Some tourists have changed their plans and chosen less expensive destinations where U.S. currency doesn't necessarily influence price, including the Caribbean and Mexico. Travellers can pay in Canadian funds up-front and don't have to worry about buying food or drinks.

"The all-inclusive packages have certainly gained strength over what they were last year for sure," said Stewart, who has been in the travel industry for more than 30 years. 

Even corporate travel to the U.S. has been down, Stewart added. 

Statistics Canada backs up what Stewart is saying: fewer Canadians are travelling across the border this season.

For October and November combined, car trips to the U.S. declined by 23 per cent compared with the same period last year. Plane trips were down by 6.3 per cent.

Disney dreams at any price

Not all travel agencies are seeing the trend though: the Travel Store in Charlottetown reports business to the U.S. is on par with last year — and many families who have planned a trip are not letting the exchange rate ruin their fun. 

"With Disney especially it's a family vacation so a lot of people are saying this is the year we're going," said Andrea Carr-McNeill, the Travel Store's director of agency support & marketing.

"So they've planned with their families for a number of years to do it and they're just going to do it."

At the Charlottetown Airport Friday, passengers boarding a flight to Orlando, Fla. weren't letting the low loonie dampen their spirits. 

"When we booked it, it wasn't too much of an issue, it was long ago," said traveller Rita Boutilier.  

"Obviously it's not ideal but it's warm in Florida and cold here so it's worth the trouble."

And that's what some American destinations are hoping for, with a number offering big discounts to Canadians.

With files from Natalia Goodwin

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