U.S. vacation hot spots offer discounts to dollar-weary Canadians
Low loonie has sparked fears Canadians won't fly south without tempting deals
Grace Tenhoeve used to be a diehard snowbird, fleeing to Florida every year to escape Canadian winters. But this year, the 71-year-old isn't taking flight.
"When the dollar dropped I said, 'You know what, I'm not going,'" recalls Tenhoeve, who lives in Waterdown, Ont.
Living alone on a fixed income, the senior says she can't afford to hibernate down south with the loonie hovering around 72 cents U.S.
"I'm not that rich," she says.
Now, U.S. hot spots are out to convince Canadians their dollar has more value than they think.
Vacation destinations Scottsdale, Ariz., Kissimmee, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. are trying to lure Canucks by offering deep discounts to help make up for the weakened loonie.
Scottsdale's loonie for Canadians
"Scottsdale loves Canadians, so come on down," says Rachel Pearson with the city's visitors bureau.
Pearson explains that Canadians make up the biggest group of international travellers to the city. So Scottsdale is going all out to woo its No. 1 foreign visitor during these turbulent times.
"We know people still want to come here, but they are looking for those deals," says Pearson.
Exclusively for Canadians, hotel deals include meal vouchers, free upgrades and up to 25 per cent off accommodation. There are also discounts on golf, boat tours, shopping and spas.
"The exchange rate has been thrown out the window," declares the campaign's website about a deal at Spa Lamar, where the loonie is on par with the American dollar.
The Phoenician, a high-end resort in Scottsdale, is offering Canadians a package promotion. Customers get the fourth night free, a $100 food voucher and a complimentary room upgrade.
"We're making that promotional offer so that [Canadians] can see their dollar still has value here," says Denise Seomin, director of marketing with the resort.
Are the Canadians coming?
Canadians are still coming to Scottsdale, Pearson says, but the city added the deals in the hope the numbers won't dwindle.
According to Statistics Canada, 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.
At the national travel agency Flight Centre, bookings to the U.S. are flat this winter, says spokeswoman Allison Wallace.
But she notes a more than 10 per cent jump in travellers purchasing all-inclusive trips to Mexico and the Caribbean. Wallace says Canadians are being lured by cheap package deals that are still giving travellers a bang for their buck.
With the weak loonie, adds Wallace, "People want to control their budget."
She says that even U.S. hot spots not hurting yet feel the need to offer enticing bargains — before it's too late.
"They want to sort of stop the bleeding before it starts," says Wallace, who is based in Vancouver.
More deals in Florida and S.C.
Kissimmee, Fla., is also doling out a series of Canadian specials promoted online by the local tourist office.
"The Canadian exchange rate being so low is causing many to hesitate traveling to Florida this year. We have the solution!" exclaims Alexander Holiday Homes on the deals site. The rental home complex is offering a 30 per cent discount.
Another popular hot spot, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is also trying to win over travellers north of the border. The local visitors bureau has teamed up with a series of hotels and tourist attractions to offer Canadians deep discounts of up to 65 per cent.
According to the Myrtle Beach visitors bureau, nearly one million Canadians visit the city each year.
"We want you folks to continue to come to Myrtle Beach. We'll make it affordable for you," says Matt Klugman about the message his business is sending to Canadians.
Klugman is the director of marketing with Vacation Myrtle Beach Resorts which runs 14 resorts in the city. The chain is offering a 25 per cent discount through May to Canadians staying at its hotels for at least a week.
Klugman says the 25 per cent discount was set in the fall when the loonie was stronger. At that time, staff thought the deal would cover the exchange rate. The loonie has since declined further, but Klugman says they had to stick with the offer.
"It would be a little bit maddening for us to change it every day and then track [the exchange rate]," he says.
Klugman adds that while the loonie remains low, his business will work hard to keep Canadians coming.
Former snowbird Tenhoeve says she's not swayed by all the discounts.
The senior admits she's actually enjoying spending the winter in Canada and has found a replacement for the warm Florida beach. Four times a week, Tenhoeve treks to a nearby indoor community pool.
"I found a pool that is at 88 degrees [Fahrenheit]," she says. "I don't need to go to Florida."
- The original version incorrectly placed Myrtle Beach in North Carolina. It is in South Carolina.Feb 05, 2016 6:18 AM ET