Mid-March and spring breakers are flocking to the beaches of the State of Florida. Numbers released just recently covering 2010, estimated that more than 3.1 Million Canadians visited the "Sunshine State".
If the Florida tourism marketing numbers are accurate, that would be an increase of 16% over 2009. One delighted state official explained the surprising increase: "In times when people are challenged financially they tend to fall back on things that are comfortable and reliable and trusted; and to a lot of Canadians Florida is that kind of destination."
The United States needs spring breakers and snowbirds as never before. The strong Canadian currency obviously combined with the related spending south of the border these recent winter months are critical in helping hard pressed sunbelt communities to regain their footing. The south's economic numbers, Florida's especially, are staggering: More than 80% (81% to be exact) of all mortgages exceed the value of the home by an average of 138%. As many as half of mortgage loans are two-months (or more) delinquent, and the State's rate of unemployment remains above 11%.
Worldwide competition for Canada's tourism dollars abroad is increasingly aggressive. Cuba, Mexico, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain have been specifically targeting Canadian winter visitors to their shores.
Citizens of the Great White North have been less than enthusiastic embracing the Federal Government's proposal to soften America's terrorism-paranoia fueled thickening of our mutual border with a so-called "Perimeter Security" arrangement touted by Prime-Minister Harper and President Obama at the end of January. Canadians have been particularly miffed by the Obama Administration's subsequent effort to impose a duty on Canadians crossing the border by air (and/or sea)as a means of financing additional Homeland Security measures. The Obama proposal followed within days of the Prime Minister's visit to Washington.
In addition to the shorter more "active" vacation trips south across our International border, as many as half-a-million Canadian "snowbirds" spend three months or more each winter season in the States of Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. Each is an important underpinning in the economy of those respective states.
They say good fences make good neighbours. Though it's natural for occasional tensions to surface; we're blessed to share the North American Continent. In the course of our history together over more than two centuries we have developed the strongest trading partnership and one of the best international friendships on the planet.
Sometimes the things we do as neighbours are perplexing: Imposing a "Homeland Security Tax" on Canadians travelling to the USA is one of those things. Another may be the Harper Government's proposal to earmark $100-Million from coast to coast next year for the bi-centennial of the War of 1812. Just as with Perimeter Security, Canadians may be somewhat lukewarm to spending so much tax money commemorating the event. I suspect our American neighbours won't be terribly happy to be reminded they were defeated, their Capital sacked and the White House burned to the ground during the war.