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Canadians Love Southwest Florida, And We Love Them Back

Canadians are coming to Lee County in force — and from places as far away as Calgary and Vancouver.

That has prompted Lee County to intensify its courtship of Canadian tourists, and one of the first steps is to study how they spend and play.

On Friday, the county’s Tourist Development Council heard a summary report from a $15,000, bed tax-funded market research study that:

Identified Canadian provinces sending the most tourists here, and which ones have the greatest potential to send more; and

Targeted consumer segments from those provinces, including their household incomes, travel habits, recreational preferences and how they spend their money.

David Gornley, president of Fort Myers-based Canadian Wholesale Currency Exchange, said he’s seeing more tourists from the country of his birth for two reasons:

“The Canadian dollar is strong, and real estate prices here are very reasonable.”

Gormley used to trade mainly with “older, retired Canadians. Now, we’re getting baby boomers in their 50s and 60s and who are thinking about retirement.”

On Friday, the Canadian currency closed at 99.2 cents against the dollar. The 52-week range was 98.4 cents to $1.05.

Not surprisingly, Toronto and the Ontario province ranked No. 1 as the area producing the most Canadian tourism for Southwest Florida. It’s a straight shot down Interstate 75 to Fort Myers. However, Quebec — and four other provinces a farther hike from Florida — also showed promise as long-term feeder markets.

Visitor bureau officials are encouraged by what they learned:

“We hit among the highest income brackets in Canada,”

The study further suggested that Southwest Florida has appeal to even such distant locations as Vancouver, B.C., and Calgary, Alberta. Affluent households in these regions “don’t mind making a connecting flight, if (the destination) is worth it,” Peek said.

Coveted Canadians

Fast facts about key feeder markets for Lee County:

Ontario (Toronto)

Heads of households: Age 40-49, married, with school-age children.
Average income: $157,391
Travel spending: $7,000-$10,000 or more on vacations in the past three years.

Quebec

Heads of households: Age 45-59, married and common-law couples with older, school-aged children
Average income: $111,026
Travel spending: $3,000-$7,000 or more on vacations n the past three years.
West & the prairies (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta)
Heads of households: Age 45-54, married, with school-aged children.
Average income: $202,155
Travel spending: $7,000-$10,000 on vacations in the past three years.
SOURCE: Generation5 study for Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau

Feeder markets

Key feeder markets for Lee County tourism — and estimated visitors — in January:
Minneapolis-Saint Paul, 13,776
Boston (including Manchester, N.H.), 8,767
Indianapolis, 7,514
Philadelphia, 6, 262
A tie between Detroit and New York City, 5,010
SOURCE: Davidson-Peterson Associates

From the News-Press, March 2012

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