Currency parity seen as aid to marketing North Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver Island residents

The strong Canadian dollar could help efforts to market the North Olympic Peninsula as a destination for outdoor recreation, say tourism promoters.

But it may not be enough to lure people across the Strait of Juan de Fuca merely to shop.

The U.S. and Canadian dollars reached parity Tuesday for the first time in about three years.

The exchange rate fluctuated throughout the week, but ended Friday with the American greenback worth not quite a cent more than the Canadian loonie.

The Black Ball Ferry Line, which operates the MV Coho ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria, did not see an increase in southbound traffic last week, said Rian Anderson, the company’s Port Angeles district manager.

The heads of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce and Port Angeles Downtown Association say they are not expecting a significant impact on local sales unless the Canadian dollar continues to rise in value.

“When it goes to the extremes one way or the other, it seems to have an effect,” said chamber Executive Director Russ Veenema.

But it may support the argument that the Peninsula is a great place for Vancouver Island residents to come for recreation, said Diane Schostak, Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau executive director.

Still, for that to work, she said, they have to know that it’s more than just a route to Seattle.

That is why the bureau is launching a marketing campaign in the Victoria area aimed at putting the Peninsula’s best foot forward — promoting our mountains, water, forests and trails.

“They don’t have a lot of information” about the Peninsula, Schostak said.

“We have not had a consistent integrated marketing program over there ever.”

Campaign funding

Clallam County is funding the campaign, worth $8,500, through its lodging tax fund.

The three county commissioners approved the expenditure March 30.

The city of Port Angeles is also stepping up its promotional efforts across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

City Manager Kent Myers and Schostak said plans to do this have been in place for months — and that they would be doing this whether the Canadian dollar was strong or weak when compared to its American counterpart.

“This is something we need to do, no matter the exchange rate,” said Myers, who considers Victoria an untapped resource.

Promotions in Victoria

Myers and Port Angeles Mayor Dan Di Guilio attended the Vancouver Island Outdoor Adventure Expo on Saturday, promoting the area at the Port Angeles chamber’s table.

Myers also planned to meet with Victoria’s city manager.

In January, Myers and Di Guilio traveled to Victoria to promote the Peninsula with representatives of Olympic National Park and business organizations.

Bob Stepp, who owns and operates the Victoria Tourist Bureau office in Port Angeles, agreed with Veenema that an equal, or nearly equal exchange rate, won’t be enough on its own to have a large impact here.

That’s why he said he was glad to see more effort on the part of Port Angeles and the rest of the Peninsula to market itself across the Strait as a place to enjoy the outdoors.

Stepp, a native of Port Angeles, said bluntly that recreation, rather than shopping, is what will bring Vancouver Island residents here.

“We are the most unique side of the Strait,” he said, adding:

“In my opinion, there’s no reason for any Canadian to shop in Port Angeles.”

The town no longer has the department stores conveniently located near the ferry terminal that it had the last time the currencies were at parity, Stepp pointed out.

PADA Executive Director Barb Frederick said that while Gottschalks and J.C. Penney’s are now gone, there are more specialty stores, like Black Diamond Bridal and Princess Valiant Coffee, that offer locally made goods.

Those shops may be more attractive to a Canadian traveler than a department store, she said, since they would more likely to find something that they can’t get across the border.

“I know that when I go to Victoria, I don’t go to the Bay [department store], I go to some of the little speciality stores,” Frederick said.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

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