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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — For the past two-and-a-half years, traveling between Canada and Western New York hasn’t always been the easiest. But that’s now a problem of the past.
“It’s wonderful, so wonderful,” Svetlana Kudashkina said. “It’s easier to travel, and it’s more freedom.”
On Saturday, the Canadian government lifted all COVID-19 related restrictions, eliminating the need for the ArriveCan app and proof of vaccination when entering the county.
“We’ve never treated it like a blockade, and that’s what it unfortunately had had to turn into,” said Janice Thompson, the president and CEO of Niagara Falls Tourism in Ontario.
She says that even though the Canadian government made efforts to lessen restrictions, the thought alone of needing to provide additional information was enough for many Canadians to just stay home.
“We’ve seen some changes to the rules of the border,” Thompson said. “We’ve seen some relaxing, but there was always something there. And I think what was planted in people’s heads was an uncertainty and an unsureness.”
According to Visa, in 2019 Canadians spent $59.1 million in Niagara County, but like everywhere else, the region saw a major drop-off in travel spending the following year due to COVID restrictions.
As those barriers have eased up over the past 12 months, spending has already doubled and is now expected to climb even more.
“Those of us who live along that river, we’ve treated it almost like a road,” Thompson said. “We’re crossing the road, we’re just going over to the U.S. … So I think we’re all looking forward to returning to those easier and more relaxed days.”
It’s not just the lack of restrictions that’s enticing Canadians to cross the border. Products such as beer, butter and gas are significantly less with gas prices, ranging from as much as $1.50 cheaper here in New York.
Our neighbors up north are keeping that in mind as they prepare for their Thanksgiving next Monday.
“We’re going to be coming down here for sure for shopping,” Michael Semilla said.
It’s still not quite a two-way street, as the United States still has a vaccination requirement for all international travelers, but Western New York politicians such as U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins are urging the Biden Administration to follow Canada’s lead.
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