With the decline of the U.S. dollar and the United States in a recession, the tourism industry of Northwestern Ontario is concerned.
But operators here are not alone in their worry. On my recent visit to Australia, I learned the Aussies also are worried about the health of tourism in their country.
As in Canada, Australia is facing a decline of visiting tourists nationwide.
Through 2007 and now into 2008, they have seen the number of visitors to the continent begin a slight decline. Newspaper articles noted the increasing value of the Australian dollar vis-à-vis the U.S. greenback is part of the problem.
When I was out on a dive boat to the Great Barrier Reef, the underwater photographer told us his video wedding business was hurting. The majority of that business came from Japanese tourists coming to the Cairns, Australia region to be married.
They are now choosing Fiji and other countries whose currencies are tied to the U.S. Before they looked at the U.S. as being too expensive to travel to.
The other often heard comment was the price of gas, which was running at $1.56 per litre in Australia. Other countries, namely Thailand, Vietnam, and Korea, are seen as inexpensive alternatives.
Here in Northwestern Ontario, we are focused on tourists coming from the United States.
On a day-long bus tour, two Americans were telling another tourist from South Africa that they had come to Australia because they now found Canada too expensive since their U.S. dollar had declined so much.
Up until this year, they had made a trip to Canada annually. They had been led to believe that Australia was an inexpensive vacation—just as Canada used to be.
But they didn’t expect to return to the Australia again because of the costs.
Across the district, the number of tourists arriving from the U.S. has reached a plateau, which has been blamed on high gas prices, the increasing value of the loonie, and border-crossing issues.
The increased value of the Australian dollar is being driven by the same economic forces that drive the Canadian economy. Oil, natural gas, iron, gold, nickel, uranium, and other metals are the driving force in Australia as China and India are buying up those commodities to expand their own economies.
Australia is the leading nation producer of seven of the 10 minerals exported worldwide.
Canada is receiving the same boom from the increase in the value of minerals and petroleum products.
The economy of the United States is reeling and many U.S. residents now find that they need every cent to keep their homes and feed their families. The use of corn, wheat, oats, and barley for “green” fuel is driving up the price of food around the world.
While there was lots of complaining, the solution offered by most was for the U.S. economy to reverse itself and the U.S. dollar to rise against all other currencies in the world.
That may happen eventually, but the turnaround will take as long as the decline did.
Australia’s other chosen alternative is to open more direct air routes to all the major airports in Australia from Japan, China, Malaysia, India, Korea, Thailand, and Russia.
They see their nation—and their future—tied more to the Southeast Asian market and the Pacific than to the North American one.
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