Monday, January 22, 2007

Assuming the worst, but finding the best in people

If you follow Canadian tourism news at all, you'll know that the number of Americans visiting Canada over the past few years has been on a steady decline. In fact, last year was the worst year on record. Here at Ste. Anne's, most of our guests hail from the 416/905 area. However, we have always enjoyed a strong following from the border states, especially New York and Michigan. Our U.S. based visitors tend to stay longer, probably because of the distance they travel to get here, and as a result, we have gotten to know several of them quite well over the years. Like other Canadian tourism operators, we have noticed a decline in U.S. business. In discussions with my colleagues in the tourism business, we've come to the conclusion that Americans are staying home for several reasons. First of all, the war in Iraq - war can sometimes cause a nation to become isolationist, and in the case of this war, much was made of the fact that Canada declined to participate. Secondly, the declining strength of the U.S. dollar against our loonie. Finally, all the hype about the border, passport requirements, and most recently Stephen Harper's decision to drop the GST rebate have not been perceived by the U.S. media as signals that we welcome our American friends. This past weekend, one of my favourite group of gals from Rochester showed up after an absence of almost 2 years. "Where have you been", I inquired. The answer surprised me. "We've been busy with our kids", was a common response, "going to school getting married, my husband retired, that's quite an adjustment, all that stuff that happens when we hit 50". "What about the exchange rate", I asked - "well, of course this has been a consideration - not that the weak Canadian dollar was the only reason for coming to Canada - it's just that the cost of coming to Canada went up, and not just a little bit, but despite that, we'd still make the 4 hour trip to be at Ste. Anne's, it just took as a while to get ourselves together", they replied. This exchange made me think of all the times in my life where all of a sudden I stop hearing from a good friend or family member. I start assuming the worst - maybe they're mad at me - did I say something to offend last time we spoke? Of course, more often than not, there is a perfectly rational reason. Sometimes we do have to reach out, or show some empathy towards changed circumstances. For my part, I don't think our government has any idea about the impact that the fluctuating Canadian dollar has on thousands of businesses, and they certainly don't appear to have a well thought out monetary policy. Maybe I should call them up and renew acquaintances, or maybe I'll poke needles in my eyes! While I'm doing that, pick up the phone and call someone you haven't heard from for a while - chances are you'll be glad you did.

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