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Day trips to U.S. hit 14-year high as loonie stays aloft

A 2009 photo of the border crossing between Canada and the United States at Blaine, Wash.

Elaine Thompson/AP

Canadian same-day travel to the United States has hit a 14-year high as a strong Canadian dollar and tantalizing deals beckon shoppers.

Same-day car travel by Canadians to the U.S. jumped 8 per cent in February to 2.6 million trips, Statistics Canada travel figures out Thursday show.

That was the highest monthly level since December, 1997.

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The monthly report doesn't delve into reasons for the travel surge. But Statscan's annual review of travel trends released late last year mentioned the currency as one potential reason. The Canadian dollar traded at par throughout February -- a far cry from 2009, when it fell below the 80-cent (U.S.) mark, making travel south much more affordable.

A "currency at par could be motivating people to take a day trip," said Statscan analyst Riley Brockington. "It doesn't mean everyone that's taking a day trip is going to shop. There are many reasons why people do that -- visiting family, attending a sporting event, enjoying the outdoors...but yes, some people do shop and that could be a reason for the increase."

In total, Canadian residents made 5.2 million trips abroad in February, a 3.9 per cent increase from January. Of those, most trips were to the United States. Total travel to the U.S. rose 4.5 per cent to 4.4 million.

Greater cross-border activity has clear implications for Canadian retailers, especially those along the border, which may be losing out on business. It also means a boost to businesses, from restaurants to gas stations and shoe stores, on the other side of the border.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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