Where to travel with the falling Canadian dollar

Canada's sinking loonie is costing Canadians some travel options. Europe is still a possibility. And even though a U.S. trip will be more expensive now than it used to be, it could be even more expensive down the road, some economists say.

Loonie has lost 8 cents against the US$ in 2015 but is up compared to a few currencies, like Brazil's

Tourists, with the Hagia Sophia museum, left, and Blue Mosque, right, in the background, look at the old city from the historical Galata Tower in Istanbul. Turkey is going through economic upheaval, resulting in downward pressure on its currency, which could make a Canadian tourist's dollar go further there. (REUTERS)

Where should Canadian travellers concerned about the declining dollar go?

Trips to their favourite destination, the U.S., will cost about 10 per cent more than at the beginning of the year, since the Canadian dollar fell from about 86 cents U.S. to 78 cents.

But the loonie hasn't been faring well this year against most other currencies, either, which could present a problem for those with a little money saved up for a foreign vacation.

CBC News looked at the Canadian dollar's performance compared to 20 other major currencies and found just three countries where the Canadian dollar should go further today than it did before the Bank of Canada stepped in at the beginning of the year.

Of course, if you are thinking about where to travel, you probably might also want to know where currency rates will fluctuate between now and your travel dates, and that outlook also isn't good for Canadians. Maybe you shouldn't postpone that U.S. trip after all.

The Canadian dollar story right now is mostly about the strength of the U.S. dollar as the American economy gathers steam.

In 2011, the loonie was worth more than the greenback, but since then it has been flying south, like a snowbird at the beginning of winter.

How about a European vacation?

That's been the same story for the euro as well, although with a bit more up and down. So far this year the loonie has lost only about a cent to the euro, so maybe don't write off that European trip just yet.

Compared to the euro, the Canadian dollar was in rapid descent from the fall of 2012 until it began moving upwards in March 2014, which it continued to do until April this year.

Michael Hart, the head trader at Friedberg Mercantile Group, says the eurozone is a good bet for Canadian travellers now and in the near future, because of the euro's decline over the last few years, and its outlook.

According to Friedberg's latest quarterly report, "for the foreseeable future, the odds are heavily stacked against any sort of balanced recovery in Europe." It adds: "In blunt terms, Europe is an economic writeoff."

Hart feels the euro is "probably going lower, but I wouldn't put a lot of money on that."

'Don't fight the Bank of Canada'

Chief economist David Rosenberg expects the Canadian dollar to go lower compared to the U.S. dollar but not to do so against the Euro. (CBC)

David Rosenberg, the much-followed chief economist and strategist at the Toronto wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff, also advises a trip to Europe for the currency-conscious Canadian traveller, though he is not as bearish on the European economy as the folks at Friedberg.

But he also cites the old adage, "Don't fight the Bank of Canada."

It's a saying directed at currency traders, but when Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz announced his second quarter-point interest rate cut earlier this month, he also provided some travel advice of his own: "Try to get yourself a room somewhere in P.E.I. this summer," he said.

In other words, Rosenberg says, the Bank of Canada was not cutting interest rates for a second time in six months to make an already overheated housing market even hotter, but to have a more competitive Canadian dollar.

The reason?

"So that all these people don't spend their money in the United States, they travel in Canada instead, create jobs here, instead of in Florida."

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, responding to questions on the bank's interest rate cut decision during a news conference in Ottawa, July 15, said 'Try to get yourself a room somewhere in P.E.I. this summer.' (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Rosenberg adds that the bank also wants to boost exports from the struggling manufacturing sector and other areas outside of the resource sector.

"The Bank of Canada has all sorts of reasons why it wants to maintain a cheap currency, to propel export growth as an antidote to the lingering weakness we're seeing in the energy sector and in related industries that cater to the energy sector."

In fact, there are a bunch of reasons for the Canadian dollar's decline this year, apart from the Bank of Canada's moves, including:

  • Falling oil prices, which are now below $50, about half of what they were a year ago.
  • The general fall of commodity prices.
  • Canada's poor economic performance. The country could be in recession, with oil and commodities a big part of the reason.
  • Higher inflation in Canada than the U.S.
  • Political uncertainty with a federal election about to get underway.
While Hart and Rosenberg both say political uncertainty puts downward pressure on the loonie, since the day Canadians elected the Harper majority government in 2011, the Canadian dollar has fallen from $1.05 to .78 U.S. (Chartbuilder/CBC)

Could try Brazil or Turkey

Rosenberg expects the loonie to continue declining against the greenback for the next few years, which is a more pessimistic view than he had in February when he suggested that the Canadian dollar might have hit bottom.

"It's pretty obvious now the Canadian dollar is in a fundamental bear market," he says.

The loonie fell to its lowest point in more than 10 years this month, making travel to the U.S. less affordable for Canadians. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Hart also expects more tough times ahead for the loonie, so he and Rosenberg would both advise making that trip to the U.S. now, despite the current price difference, rather than postponing it.

For Hart, it's all about oil. "I can't think of a bullish argument, of one thing, that's going to lead to oil going higher. Because of that I'm thinking the Canadian dollar goes lower from here."

If you want a destination where the loonie does go further today than it did at the start of this year, here are three:

  • Brazil
  • Turkey
  • New Zealand

Brazil and Turkey are both going through economic upheaval, resulting in downward pressure on their currency, Hart explains.

Like Canada, New Zealand is a major commodity exporter and Rosenberg says that explains why the New Zealand dollar is doing slightly worse than Canada's. 

But when it comes to travel, right now, Rosenberg, and the Bank of Canada both sound a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: "There's no place like home."

Currency data from Bank of Canada


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