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It's an ill wind that blows no one any good, so will the weak dollar help San Diego? For example, the Canadian dollar, which as recently as early 2002 was worth 62 cents, is now at parity with our dollar. Will Canadian snowbirds rush in bigger numbers to the desert this winter? Will San Diego get more Canadian tourists? Surprisingly, the effect may be small.

Yuma, Arizona, attracts 70,000 snowbirds a year. "The RV parks expect no more than normal," says Ken Rosevear, head of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce. The number of visitors kept rising while the Canadian dollar (called the "loonie" because of the loon on the coin) was weak. He doubts traffic will pick up with the loonie strong.

El Centro, which gets about 10,000 snowbirds a year, doesn't have room for more, although they may go out to Bureau of Land Management space in the desert and also go to Brawley, Niland, and Holtville, says Cathy Kennerson, head of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. She hopes that those staying nearby will do more shopping in El Centro.

Erica Savage, executive director of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce, says, "I hope that with the Canadian dollar where it is, we will find a lot more of our northwestern tourists venturing down for longer stays" and spending more. The town has a full-time population of 3000 that swells to 7000 in the winter.

However, Jack Giacomini, who runs three large hotel facilities in Mission Valley, doubts there will be much effect on San Diego tourism. "There are more conditions than just the balance of the dollar and the loonie," he says. "Typically, the weather has a lot to do with it -- if it's bad weather there and good here. The exchange rate doesn't hinder anybody unless it's way out of control, so I don't expect a significant change because of that." He does believe, though, that Canadians who come here will spend more money.

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