How Canada’s protracted border closure impacts Rochester businesses

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Itching to get back over to Canada? You’re in luck. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday that fully-vaccinated Americans will be allowed into the country beginning in mid-August. 

After the border being closed for more than a year, this is exciting news for many Western New York businesses that benefit from Canadian tourism, including Rochester. 

Don Jeffries, the President and CEO of Travel Rochester, said the closed border has been tough on local businesses. 

“It is a big impact. Canada is one of our largest target markets and that is completely dried up,” Jeffries said. 

Jeffries said before the pandemic, a lot of people from Canada would travel to Rochester to shop and the tourism contributed a sizable amount to the city’s revenue. 

“I am guessing off the top of my head, between 20 and 30 percent would be Canadian. Last year, two years ago before the pandemic, we did a little research with our partners over at Eastview Mall and over one weekend, a third of all their receipts came from Canada,” Jeffries said. “We are a pretty inexpensive place to shop and for some reason, there are certain brands that are not avaliable in Canada, so the Canadians do come here.”

Jeffries also said that the border being shut has impacted local sports, specifically golf. 

“Golf is a huge sport in Rochester and it’s a huge destination for the Canadians. The number of golf groups we lost is extensive,” Jeffries said.

Once the border does open to fully-vaccinated Americans, local travel agencies except to see their business benefit as well. Many travelers from Western New York will fly out of Canadian airports. 

“We don’t have direct flights anywhere, so a lot of times people, especially going over to Europe or going to down to the Caribbean. I have many, many customers will cross the border and fly out of Toronto for a direct flight, a lot of times the flights are cheaper,” Lynn DiMaria, the General Manager of DiMaria Travel. 

Before the border opens, experts say make sure you check your passport expiration date. To get into Canada, travelers need a passport or enhanced driver’s license. Currently, there is a massive delay when it comes to getting a passport or having it renewed. 

“If you do not have a passport, and I don’t care if you’re not traveling for 2 years, get it done now. It’s taking a long time to get back. We are supposed to tell customers 6-8 weeks, yesterday we were notified to tell them 12-16 weeks and I just read an article in the Travel Weekly that it could be up to 6 months,” DiMaria said. 

Plans to open the Canadian border come as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is doing well with it’s COVID-19 vaccination rate. 80% of eligible Canadians are now vaccinated with their first dose and 50% are fully vaccinated. 

Jeffries said Monroe County is doing a good job with its vaccinations and that’s something they plan to emphasise when the border does reopen. 

“The number of people that are vaccinated you know, one of the things that we will focus on when they open the Canadian border is what a safe destination we are,” Jeffries said. 

Trudeau said if things continue like they are, Canada would be able to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries starting in September. He plans to share more details on the border re-opening next week.

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