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Latest T.I. region border data shows significant increase in Canadian visitation in 2012

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Canadian day trippers to the U.S. in the Thousand Islands region are on the rise, according Statistics Canada’s latest border crossings breakdown.

Compared with 2011, some 30,551 more Canadians in the Thousand Islands area made day visits to the U.S. last year from January through November, a 9 percent increase, according to Statistics Canada.

Furthermore, border data show that one-night stays increased by an even larger margin — a good sign not only for area lodging operations but for retailers, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses.

From January through November, “one overnights” went up by approximately 38 percent over 2011 to an estimated 109,708 people.

Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, said he suspects most of the increase comes from Canadian shoppers to the greater Watertown and Syracuse areas who have more spare cash to spend as North America’s economy improves.

The favorable exchange rate, which puts the value of Canadian and U.S. dollars roughly on par, certainly doesn’t hurt either, he said.

“I don’t think we’re going to see the same rate of growth in following years. But, hopefully, we’ll be able to hold the numbers we’re getting,” Mr. DeYoung said.

The challenge in the years to come would be to get more of these Canadian shoppers to spend time at local restaurants, wineries, ski slopes and other tourist attractions, he said.

Mr. DeYoung said the tourism council has been promoting the region heavily in Ottawa and eastern Ontario. In addition to its regular summer promotions, the council has been making a greater effort to attract more visitors in the fall since 2009.

The number of Thousand Islands region Canadians who spent two or more nights on the U.S. side of the border also grew by 7 percent to 677,133 people.

However, Mr. DeYoung said, it’s hard to determine whether these travelers ended up staying in Northern New York or were simply en route to somewhere else.

Overall visitation increased 10 percent from roughly 1.1 million to 1.2 million. On the flip side, the number of Americans arriving in Canada went up only by 3,659 people, a 1 percent increase over 2011.

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