American cruise ship passengers put exchange rate to good use in Vancouver
"They are just throwing it at us, just throwing it...we can't keep up," say tour operators
Americans are putting Canada's weak dollar to good use this cruise ship season, taking advantage of the strong exchange rate to spend more on taxis, tours, food and accommodation.
"They are just throwing it at us, just throwing it as us, we can't keep up," said Tim Huguet with the Vancouver Trolley Company.
Two years ago the American dollar was at par with the Canadian dollar. Now the exchange rate is much more favourable for Americans coming to Canada — a U.S. dollar is worth about $1.25 Canadian.
Huguet says compared to a year ago there are double the amount of American passengers aboard ships.
U.S. tourists say their strong dollar is an incentive to come here. Many say they plan to eat out more, see more sights and buy more souvenirs.
"I'll probably go to Starbucks a few more times, probably stay out a little bit longer and have an extra drink," said Zach Mingo, visiting from Washington D.C.
It's estimated that Vancouver's cruise industry stimulates more than $2 million in economic activity for each vessel that calls at Canada Place.
While all the traffic and greenbacks floating around are good for the economy, the boost has its problems such as long lines for taxis and a crush at public transit stations.
But most are willing to put up with the inconvenience.
"This year more people are coming," said taxi driver Abolghasen Abdolahi. "Especially with the American dollar stronger, the dollar is flourishing, after a few bad years. Things are improving."
This weekend alone close to 12,000 passengers are at Canada Place getting on or off a cruise ship, another 12,000 are expected May 30.
American passengers like Cathy Lee from Missouri say most are surprised just how far their money is going right now.
"We just went to exchange some American dollars for Canadian and I think I got an extra $20 out of it."
The Alaska cruise season officially started in late April with the arrival of the Ruby Princess at Canada Place. the first of more than 200 visits planned for this year.
Canada Place says about 70 per cent of the passengers are from the U.S., about 15 per cent are Canadian and the rest are from overseas.
With files from the CBC's Richard Zussman