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Quebecers still pouring into the United States for annual holidays

Last Updated Jul 16, 2018 at 5:20 pm EDT

MONTREAL – As more than 125,000 construction workers in Quebec get ready to lay down tools for their annual two-week vacation, there appears to be little anecdotal evidence of any systemic boycott of the United States as a travel destination.

In Vermont, Maine and the Virginia Beach area — three popular spots for Quebecers — holiday cancellations related to possible anti-American sentiment are few and far between.

“We called our members and partners last week to see if that were the case and we can’t say there is any particular tendency,” Jacinthe Pare, who works for Virginia Beach’s tourism office and helps vacationing Quebecers, told The Canadian Press.

Industry spokespeople who were consulted say the unfavourable exchange rate for Canadians — the dollar is trading at about 75 cents US — is the main factor in people’s decision whether to go to the United States.

The discord between the two countries has intensified in recent months, with U.S. President Donald Trump dissing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after last month’s G7 summit as “very dishonest and weak.”

There is also the dispute over steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the United States that has led Canada and other countries to counter with a long list of retaliatory tariffs.

Before the G7 summit, a survey published in May by CAA-Quebec found that 13 per cent of respondents expected to spend their holidays in the United States, compared with 11 per cent in 2017.

And Statistics Canada data for June indicate the number of Canadians who crossed the border coming home climbed by 12.7 per cent from a year earlier.

“Maybe two or three cancellations are attributable (to Trump’s comments),” said Chantale Breault, who has worked for almost 25 years at Holiday Trav-l-Park, a Virginia Beach camping ground that belongs to Quebecer Phillippe Upton.

Breault said Quebecers account for about 85 per cent of the site’s clientele during the construction holiday fortnight and that the current political situation has not generated any major fluctuations.

“We took the time to answer those people who did cancel their plans to assure them we did not support the (Trump’s) criticism,” she said. “I’d say the Quebecers who are here talk more about Trump in a joking way.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Canada accounts for the largest number of international visitors to the United States, with more than 20 million visitors pumping nearly $20 billion into the U.S. economy.

A so-called “Trump Slump” never materialized after Trump’s election, and travel to the United States is growing, said Allison Wallace of Flight Centre Canada, a travel agency with 150 locations across Canada.

“All of that being said, we’ve not seen a trade war like this, so that may change,” she said. “But as of now, the U.S. remains a very popular destination.”

In Vermont, the state registered 289,235 vehicles crossing the border from Canada between April and June, up 6.4 per cent from the same period in 2017.

For Wendy Knight, Vermont’s tourism and marketing commissioner, any anti-Trump sentiment has not really morphed into a widespread boycott.

“Aside of the dozen of persons that have reached out to me saying that they won’t be visiting Vermont because of the president, what we are seeing on the ground is different,” Knight said in an interview.

— With files from The Associated Press