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Survey: Exchange rate deters Canadian visitors

GRAND FORKS -- A new survey shows three-fourths of Canadian travelers visit the Grand Forks area less often because of an unfavorable exchange rate. The survey results, which were released by the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau...

GRAND FORKS -- A new survey shows three-fourths of Canadian travelers visit the Grand Forks area less often because of an unfavorable exchange rate.

The survey results, which were released by the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau Wednesday, help underline the Grand Forks business community's worries over fewer Canadians in local hotels, restaurants and shops. Seventy-six percent of respondents to the annual survey said the exchange rate means they visit Greater Grand Forks less often, compared with 63 percent who said the same thing last year.

As of Wednesday morning, one Canadian dollar was worth 76 U.S. cents. Still, Canadians ranked the price of goods as the No. 1 reason they visit here, with the exchange rate coming in second.

Canadian travel has long been a major driver of the Grand Forks economy, and local business leaders often keep an eye on the exchange rate between the two countries. A vast majority of survey respondents said they visited Grand Forks for shopping or a weekend getaway, and almost half said they spend between $251 and $750 per trip, on average.

Julie Rygg, the CVB's executive director, said the survey helps her organization determine why Canadians are interested in visiting Grand Forks and how they're getting information about the area.

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"We're seeing from this that the No. 1 way they're getting information is from our website," she said. "So we need to continue upon that, make sure that we're getting all the necessary information there."

The CVB plans to continue marketing in Canada despite the drop in traffic, but Rygg noted the organization has done more marketing within North Dakota in recent years. Winnipeg tourism officials, meanwhile, see the exchange rate as an opportunity to attract more American visitors.

"We're not going to lessen what we're doing in Canada right now," she said. "We know at some point that exchange rate should turn around, hopefully, and we want our friends up there to know that we want them to come."

Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of the Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, said businesses who have been in town for a while are well aware of the cyclical nature of the exchange rate.

"They build that into their long-term business plan," Wilfahrt said. "This isn't anything new for Grand Forks businesses."

Related Topics: TOURISM
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