HAMPTON, N.H. (AP) – Business owners are crediting hot weather and a strong Canadian dollar for a good tourism season.

“The weather on weekends helps immeasurably,” said Doc Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce. “Weather’s everything.”

Motel owners in Hampton Beach say they’re fully booked through August thanks to visitors from Quebec. Andy Mazzhelia, owner of the Seascape Inn, said he’s sees an increase in Canadian business over last year.

The Canadian dollar currently is worth about 90 cents in the United States.

Manny Witt, director for the New England Tourism Bureau in Montreal, said 20 percent more Canadians are traveling to New Hampshire this summer. He said the top three New England destinations are Hampton Beach, Old Orchard Beach in Maine and Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

In Canada, gas is $1.18 a liter, or $4.46 a gallon, Witt said.

“The Canadians will fill up in the United States coming in and out,” he said. “Food is (also) cheaper in the states. You take the same vacation for two weeks in Toronto and Hampton Beach; it’s $800 to $1,000 cheaper in Hampton Beach.”

Witt said more Canadians may be traveling to the United States now since they will need passports to fly into the country beginning Dec. 31 and to drive into the country on Dec. 31, 2007.

American tourists also are staying closer to home, said Windemiller. “Whether it’s the bad U.S. dollar or gas prices, people are staying closer to home,” Windemiller said.

In Old Orchard Beach, rain in May and June dampened the early season, keeping day trips down. But the season has now kicked into full gear and businesses are seeing an influx of Canadian tourists because of the strong Canadian dollar, said Bud Harmon, executive director of the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Old Orchard Beach has been a popular vacation spot for French-speaking Canadians for decades, but business dropped off when the Canadian dollar’s value dropped in relation to U.S. currency. Canadian visits have steadily climbed as the Canadian dollar has risen since bottoming out in 2002 at 62 cents, meaning it took $1.60 in Canadian money to buy $1 in greenbacks.

“We’re getting a lot Canadians,” said Andy Mazzhelia of the Seascape Inn in Hampton. “They come here every year. More this year than last year, because the exchange helps.”

Skip Windemiller, owner of DW’s Oceanside Inn, said he has plenty of reservations.

“We’re up anyway,” he said. “This is our best year ever.”

John Ozberak, owner of The Tides on Ashworth Avenue, said fewer people are coming without reservations looking for a room.

“There (are) more planned vacations,” Ozberak said.

“Every indicator says the tourism season is going to be strong,” said Harmon. “And of course the exchange rate has made a huge difference. We have many, many Canadian tourists in town.”


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