Labor Day is here and tourism officials are saying it’s been a good summer for Maine.

They’re also saying it’s been a good summer for visitors from the north.

More and more businesses outside the traditional hot spot of Old Orchard Beach are seeing an increase in Canadian tourists.

That’s at least partly due to a favorable currency exchange rate: On Sunday, the Canadian dollar was worth about $1.01 U.S. Adding to that is the higher cost of some goods in Canada, making the rate all that sweeter.

State tourism officials and industry associations have taken advantage of the opportunity by boosting advertising in Canadian markets and adding French translations on websites.

“If their dollar is in favor, we’re an even greater discount. … It’s a good deal for a vacation,” said Greg Dugal, executive director of the Maine Innkeepers Association.


The number of Canadian tourists in Old Orchard Beach is still very high, but they have spread out across the state, Dugal said.

“They saved us in 2009 because the recession didn’t hit Canadians as hard,” he said. “I’m really happy that they’re coming and hope they keep coming. It certainly is a really wonderful addition.”

On a recent morning, people were chatting in French as they walked through downtown Ogunquit, enjoying the warm sunshine and stopping in various stores. Inside the Harbor Candy Shop, manager Colleen Osselaer said Canadian customers helped boost business after a slow start to summer. By the second week in August, business was steady.

“We’ve had a huge influx of Canadians this year,” Osselaer said as she finished boxing a customer’s phone order while employees helped customers.

She said Canadians have visited Ogunquit in past years, but not as many. Throughout the summer, she’s watched car after car from Quebec driving up and down Route 1.

In 38 years of business, John Cavaretta, owner of The Village Food Market & Cafe, said he has never seen the Canadian dollar this strong.


“It’s translated to much more business for us,” he said.

Customers eyed the breakfast pastries and filled up on coffee Thursday as an employee rang up the bill for a French-speaking customer. The market, which offers fresh foods, baked goods, beer and wine, is about 1 percent ahead of last year’s sales, Cavaretta said.

“It’s been a busy summer with Canadian traffic,” he said.

The Maine Office of Tourism is waiting for taxable retail-sales figures from July and August for a full picture of how the industry fared, but numbers from June indicate a 4 percent increase from June 2010. Other June figures show lodging up 3.2 percent and restaurants up 2.6 percent from last year.

Director Carolann Ouellette said she’s heard from many that it has been a good summer, despite bad weather in May and early June.

As far as where tourists are from, Ouellette agrees there are more Canadians this summer. She attributes part of that to the exchange rate, but said Maine also has been advertising in Canada more heavily in recent years. This year’s media plan listed on the office’s website includes advertising online from New Brunswick to Ontario, as well as plans for newspaper advertising this winter in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal.


Dugal said innkeepers and others in the lodging industry have also increased their advertising in Canada.

“For many years, we didn’t advertise in Canada, probably because the exchange rate was so lopsided in our favor,” he said. “Over the last couple years, there’s been a lot more attention paid.”

Since 2008, he said the innkeepers association has advertised online, in newspapers and by attending trade shows.

Two years ago, the Maine Tourism Association started offering French translations on its website and its travel planner, Executive Director Vaughn Stinson said. He said more places are trying to accommodate French-speaking visitors, but for the most part Canadians either speak English or are able to navigate despite the language barrier.

As a whole, he’s heard good feedback about this summer despite continued economic woes. While people are stressed about rising prices and job security, they are still traveling to Maine.

“(Canadian tourists) have been a huge plus for us,” Stinson said, adding that he hopes good weather will extend tourist travel through fall.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:


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