U.S.-bound motorists cross about border requirements

Testing rules deemed a barrier to flow of tourism between Canada and U.S.

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They are geographically joined at the hip.

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And these days, Niagara Falls, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., are limping along as they try to fire up cross-border tourism.

“That’s all been disrupted,” said Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

“It’s critical to get it back as normal as possible, as soon as possible.”

She and others say that “normal” will not happen as long as Canadians are required to show a negative test before returning to Canada from a land border trip to the United States.

Monday marked the reopening of the border to land crossings.

“This testing thing is onerous, but hopefully people will think it’s worth the weekend to come down and spend some time here on everything they miss doing,” said Gallagher, noting that 10% of Buffalo Bills season ticket holders are Canadian.

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“What that stops are those spontaneous trips back and forth.”

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Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati whole-heartedly agreed.

“I’m glad that we’re on the right trajectory. But there are still some wrinkles that need to be ironed out,” he said.

What does he see as the main wrinkle?

“Specifically the PCR testing requirement upon entry or re-entry into Canada. That is definitely going to be an encumbrance.”

Diodati said he had a remote meeting with local members of Congress Monday morning to discuss ways governments can ease of passage across the border.

Prior to the pandemic, Canadians pumped more than $1 billion annually into Buffalo’s economy, according to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and 13% of people departing from the Buffalo airport were from Canada.

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And many Canadians own property in Florida and other states.

“Although it is a positive step, it is just embroiled in tremendous confusion,” said Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents.

The travel industry does not yet expect a sudden rush South.

“We still have the PCR test requirement which is an incredible challenge and barrier from an expense perspective and from a logistics perspective,” Paradis said.

  1. A pedestrian walks past a line of Canadian travelers in their vehicles on the Rainbow Bridge between Niagara Falls, Ont. and Niagara Falls, N.Y. in the early hours of Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

    U.S. eases COVID-19 restrictions at land border for vaccinated Canadians

  2. The U.S.-Canada border crossing is seen amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Lacolle, Que., April 17, 2020.

    ‘It’s going to be crazy’: Snowbirds at campground eager for U.S. border reopening

  3. Vehicles with Canadian plates pass through the United States Customs booth at the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit and Windsor on November 8, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

    EDITORIAL: The border slowly returns to normal

Diodati is hoping the Public Health Agency reconsiders the testing.

“It’s been beyond devastating: 40,000 people count on tourism to feed their families,” he said.

Statistics Canada says there were 598,000 land trips back into Canada in August. In August 2019 — the last August before the pandemic — there were 2.3 million land trips from the U.S. into Canada.

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