In an effort to encourage U.S. visitors to continue vacationing at Whistler, several local organizations have strongly recommended that American cash be treated at par this winter.
The decision was made jointly by Tourism Whistler, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, and One Whistler in reaction to the loonie’s recent strength against the American greenback. The Canadian dollar has been valued at or above the U.S. dollar since Sept. 21, trading at $1.03 U.S. on Wednesday.
“For a long time, businesses have been at the opposite end and have been making kind of a profit on the exchange rate. Now we are saying it is time to offer a little bit back to our American visitors,” said chamber president Louis Lundy.
Lundy added Tourism Whistler and the chamber will continue to monitor the exchange rate throughout the winter and reassess the recommendation if a significant change occurs.
“Obviously nobody can predict if there is going to be a serious fluctuation in the exchange rate. But as it stands today, we really feel it is an important message to make sure we are welcoming our U.S. visitors, as they did with us down in Bellingham for years and years and years,” said Lundy, referring to the Washington city’s at-par policy which helped them attract Canadian shoppers.
The at-par recommendation coincides with actions already taken within the Whistler community. Tourism Whistler has been recommending a U.S. exchange rate of 0 per cent in the Pique Classifieds since the beginning of July. And Whistler-Blackcomb has already gone ahead and committed to treating American cash at par throughout the upcoming season.
“Each business is different and unique and has to obviously look at their own personal situation. Everybody’s markets are different, and some take more cash than others,” said Lundy.
“We do recognize that this is going to be a challenge for many small businesses that do all cash. But we have to recognize that 30 per cent of our market is the American visitor. And it might be the difference between them choosing Whistler or Colorado for their winter vacation,” she said.
Lundy added that when the loonie reached a low of $61.97 U.S. in January 2002, the chamber noticed a positive impact on American business in Whistler.
“I would say it definitely helped, there is no question about that. It is kind of interesting because I think there is some belief that most Americans don’t really acknowledge that there is a difference between the currencies, but I think they definitely do,” said Lundy.
She added it is also important to consider the demands of Americans who own homes in Whistler, since they make up a large percentage of the town’s second-home owners.
“That second-home owner has been here for a long time, and literally the value of Whistler has been less and less for them. I think for them to see us offering cash at par is going to be good news for them,” she said.
Joey Gibbons, owner of four Whistler businesses that deal in cash, agreed that the decision to treat the U.S. dollar as equal could have a positive impact on American tourism.
“Money is often a sensitive issue. And it is such an easy mistake to make to get a bit greedy and try to get that extra dollar. I am a huge supporter of giving fair value on their money and on ours,” said Gibbons, whose businesses have already been treating the exchange rate as 0 per cent for a few months.