U.S. businesses dependent on Canadian travellers welcome border news
A vehicle crosses the International Rainbow Bridge from Niagara Falls, Ont. into Niagara Falls, N.Y. on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. The United States border will reopen to non-essential travel in November to fully vaccinated Canadians after a record long closure due to concerns over COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett
Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, October 13, 2021 2:40PM EDT
TORONTO -- Businesses on the U.S. side of the border are welcoming news that Canadians could soon be travelling south after the Biden administration said it would reopen land crossings in November.
Details remain scarce, including the specific date next month that fully-vaccinated Canadians will be able to cross the land border, but the news still comes as a relief to American businesses after nearly 20 months without Canadian customers.
"It means everything to me when it finally opens," said Betsy Smith, who runs a package receiving service as well as two sporting goods stores in Ogdensburg, N.Y.
"Cross-border shoppers that come and spend money in our whole community, losing them has been very bad for us."
She said the package service at her company, NAC Logistics, which provides Canadians a place to pick up online orders sent in the U.S., used to get about 2,000 packages a week and now it's down to about a hundred, forcing her to cut her staff by about half.
The bike and hockey shops she runs have also been hit hard because Canadians normally make up about half of sales.
"I've been hit in every direction with this. So I can't wait, I can't wait for the border to reopen."
Cody McCormick, who manages two Duty Free Americas shops in Calais, Maine, said sales are at about a quarter of where they are normally and that the whole town is hurting.
"The Canadian customers that come over here make a huge difference, especially in the travel and retail, a huge difference."
He said that while the peak tourism season is well past, he still expects to see a big jump in travellers once the border reopens.
"With it being shut down as long as it was, I think a lot of people are going to take the opportunity before the snow flies to get over here and see family."
Dottie Gallagher, chief executive of the chamber of commerce for the Buffalo, N.Y. area, said businesses in the tourism sector that depend on regular crossings are especially feeling a heavy sigh of relief
"We very much treat that bridge as a bridge, not a border, so it has really been a tremendous hardship."
The reopening will mean Canadians will once again be able to travel south to catch NHL hockey games and all the benefits that brings to the community, Gallagher added.
"Everyone benefits from that in Buffalo, you know our restaurateurs, the bars, the nightclubs, etc., so even though we lost the summer to Canadian visitation, at least for the sporting season we'll be able to get back to the new normal."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2021.