Region looks to rebuild tourism from Canada |

Region looks to rebuild tourism from Canada

John Seelmeyer

Not long ago, tourists from Canada

accounted for enough of the mix that the

exchange rate between the Canadian and

American dollars was an important piece of

information in downtown Reno.

But after a sharp slump in Canadian visitors,

tourism executives in the Reno-Sparks

region and statewide, for that matter are

redoubling their efforts to market the state to

northern markets.

In the middle years of this decade

2004, 2005 and 2006 Canadians accounted

for 6 or 7 percent of the visitors to Reno. In

2007, they accounted for only about 2 percent,

says a marketing study conducted for the

Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors

Authority by Reno’s InfoSearch International.

That amounts to a decline of more than

200,000 visitors from the peak years.

“It used to be pretty significant,” says Ellen

Oppenheim, president and chief executive officer

of the RSCVA.

The decline, she says, appears to have a

fairly simple cause: The end of direct air service

between Reno and Canadian destinations.

Turning the situation around may prove

just as simple.

Allegiant Air last year launched direct air

service between Reno and Bellingham,Wash.,

just south of the Canadian border. While that’s not quite as good as direct

service from cities in western Canada,

Oppenheim says the service appears to doing

well and is drawing visitors to Reno from

British Columbia.

More good news: Southwest Airlines,

which accounts for about half the air service

to Reno, this summer said it’s building a codeshare

partnership with Canada’s WestJet.

The two airlines have said they expect to

have coordinated flight schedules ready to roll

out in late 2009.

“We think this potentially is very positive,”

Oppenheim says.

A third big push came from this summer’s

strength of the Canadian dollar against its

American counterpart. Until a couple of weeks

ago, the Canadian dollar was worth more than

$1 in the United States well above the 75

cents or so that it was worth earlier in this


That allowed visitors from Canada to buy

more American goods and services for the

same amount of their home country’s currency.

The RSCVA, Oppenheim says, is working

travel industry trade shows in western Canada

and hosting Reno-Tahoe nights to showcase

the region to travel agencies.

The Nevada Commission on Tourism, too,

is beefing up its efforts to market to Canadian


The state agency recently signed on with

VoX International Inc., a Toronto-based

tourism sales consultant that will market

Nevada to Canadian travelers.

Nevada already ranks sixth among U.S.

states as a destination for Canadian travelers,

says a study by the Canadian government.

In 2007, the study found about 937,000

Canadian visitors came to Nevada, spending a

total of 4.2 million nights in the Silver State.

New York drew the most visitors among

U.S. states 2.9 million Canadians in 2007

while sunny Florida had the longest visits.

Canadians looking to warm their bones spent

more than 42.8 million nights in Florida during

2007 a figure that’s more than four

times greater than that of any other state.