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Where have the Canadian tourists gone? Weak loonie keeps them from visiting US

ORLANDO, Fla. — Around this time of year, Joel and Lorraine Leydier usually make their annual drive from their home near Toronto to South Carolina. But this year, they're staying in Canada due to the weak loonie, and others are doing the same.

Visits by the United States' largest supply of international visitors are forecast to be down by 8 per cent this year and another 1 per cent next year. By comparison, overall international visits to the United States are expected to be up half a percentage point this year and up more than 2.5 per cent next year.

Still, some 21.1 million Canadians are expected to come to the United States this year, making up almost 30 per cent of the U.S.'s international visitors.

"We will probably hold off until the dollar straightens itself out a bit," said Joel Leydier.

The Canadian dollar this year has dropped to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in more than a decade. The loonie has slid 25 per cent against the U.S. dollar in the past three years and now is worth about 75 cents US.

After Canada, the biggest sources of international tourists in the United States are Mexico, with a forecast of 17.9 million visitors this year; the United Kingdom, 4.4 million visitors; Japan, 3.5 million visitors; and Brazil, 2.3 million visitors.

In Florida, where 4.2 million Canadians vacation annually, Canadian visits are down 1.4 per cent for the first three quarters of the year, even though overall tourism is up by 5.5 per cent, and Florida is on the path to break the 100 million visitors mark. Florida is the second most popular state for Canadian visitors, trailing only New York.

The Miami market caters to more affluent Canadians and hasn't been as affected as other parts of the state, said Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"We are attracting more of the upscale Canadian traveller," said Talbert, whose city saw Brazilians supplant Canadians four years ago as the top source of visitors.

Mike Schneider, The Associated Press

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