Taxes weren't helping sell U.S. tourists on Canada in 1991

Even Americans were complaining about the GST after it was introduced in Canada.

American visitors liked getting 'good value' for their money here, but didn't like our taxes

Is Canada too pricey to visit?

31 years ago
Duration 2:18
In 1991, The National reports on a five-year drop in tourism to Canada.

Some people always find things to complain about — even when they're on vacation.

Such as the vacationing Americans who took issue with the taxes applied to booze, gas and other items on this side of the border.

"Like my wife says: 'Let's get out of Canada, I don't think we can afford to stay here,'" said one visitor to Regina who was standing beside an RV decorated with mustardy-orange stripes, when appearing in a report on The National on July 22, 1991.

There were some who took issue with the GST, which applied to goods purchased and brought back home — though some rebates were available for taxes levied on services like hotel rooms.

This man told CBC News that the GST seemed like "an extra hit" on tourists visiting Canada. (The National/CBC Archives)

"It's kind of an extra hit, every time you buy something to have that extra tax loaded on," said a shirtless man, who was leaning against a boat during an interview with CBC News.

The taxes in place in Canada also seemed to be an issue for business travellers as well, given that convention business was down $67 million in the country that year.

'Easier' to stay in the U.S.?

Convention consultant Barbara Kincaid said that many American business professionals were prefer to stay within the U.S for conferences. (The National/CBC Archives)

Barbara Kincaid, a convention consultant, said those Americans didn't want to deal with the GST, even if there were rebates they could claim.

"It's much easier for these people to just stay within their own country — quite honestly," she told CBC News.

Tom Hockin, the federal tourism minister, predicted Canada's tourism numbers would improve as visitors became aware of available rebates. 

"When we brought in the rebate, we meant to bring it in, in order to attract foreign tourists," he told CBC News.

Tourism Minister Tom Hockin is seen speaking to CBC News in the summer of 1991. (The National/CBC Archives)

The National's report came at a time when tourism to Canada had been in decline over a five-year period and some believed the newly implemented GST was making things worse for the tourism industry.

The CBC's Diana Swain reported that a survey had been conducted in the United States and its results were to be formally released the following month. She gave a preview of its conclusions.

"It says Americans like Canada because they get a good value for their dollar," said Swain.

"But those who make their living in the industry say with numbers down again this year, that optimism is hard to believe."

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