Ever since the world reopened and countries started dropping their once-harsh entry regimes, travel demand has soared, with numerous territories reporting passenger numbers equal to, or even higher than the pre-pandemic years. That is the case with tourism giants like Mexico, where 40 million tourists are expected this year alone.
Sadly, Mexico’s stellar comeback has not been replicated by its North American peers. The United States and Canada are two countries that, despite being close partners, continue to restrict cross-border travel and are yet to rise from the Covid ashes. Even after two years of living with this virus, US/Canada travel remains incredibly limited.
While they initially stood with their respective governments in enforcing the infamously strict entry rules, now even border authorities are getting increasingly worried with the dwindling traffic levels:
The Western World Would Have Fully Reopened, Were It Not For The U.S. And Canada
Throughout the crisis, both the U.S. and Canada enacted measures some may say were draconian. From banning certain nationalities from entering under any circumstances, to requiring negative tests even after vaccines became available, America’s northernmost nations have taken an evident conservative approach in their fight against Covid.
Only recently, the US lifted its much-criticized inbound travel testing requirement, which applied to all international arrivals including American citizens, after months of stoking travel uncertainty. Canada also removed a controversial ruling that prohibited unvaccinated Canadians from traveling at all, but these still do not go nearly far enough.
The fact is: both the US and Canada have the strictest entry regulations in place right now in the Western World. As most of Europe resumes tourism and grants access to all, irrespective of vaccination or testing, North America’s leading economies are becoming more and more isolated with every passing day.
Even Australia has now dropped all curbs.
Travel Between U.S. And Canada Remains Limited Due To Strict Border Rules
Unsurprisingly, travel between the US and Canada continues to be heavily controlled, taking into account they share the longest land border in the world and border crossings, once simple procedures, have become a source of anxiety and stress. This will not change anytime soon, as these nations have failed to start reopening discussions.
In fact, Canada extended its border regulations until September 30, meaning Americans entering the country will still be required to download the ArriveCan app, and of course, be fully vaccinated in order to enter the country. Similarly, the US has given no indication as to when vaccine requirements for foreigners will be dropped.
As a result, the once-smooth US/Canada travel bubble has been lagging behind Europe’s, and even Western Asia’s swift recovery. Meanwhile, the tourism industry bears the brunt of these inflexible rules alone: Beth Potter, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, has revealed tourism spending has only reached 50% of pre-pandemic levels.
Additionally, the number of overnight stays fulfilled by foreign travelers, including Americans, has dropped by a bewildering 89%. These numbers translate into actual losses for hard-working Canadians: we have received reports of several business owners that are struggling to get back on their feet due to the lack of tourist dollars:
One of them is Ed ‘Tripp’ Parmiter, a renowned maritime artist and gallery owner in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Before Covid began, tourists regularly stopped by Tripp’s Gallery to browse his extensive and diverse collection, but they have become fewer and fewer as rules tightened and visiting Canada became synonymous with excessive bureaucracy.
Tourists are advised to use this tool to find out whether they are eligible to enter the country, but unless they are vaccinated, they will find out they remain barred from setting foot an inch North of the border. Back to Tripp, he tells Travel Off Path gallery visits are still down 65% compared to 2019, offering another dispiriting comment: ‘Americans just haven’t returned‘.
Besides the precipitous drop in tourism revenue, Tripp adds that his plans of expanding have been curtailed: ‘I had opened a second gallery called Oceanside Gallery in Cornwallis Park, but have since laid off the employees and listed it for sale‘. Now running it by himself, he concludes that ‘an influx of American tourists’ would surely help the business.
Small Businesses Are Paying The Price Of These Overly Strict Policies
According to the Peace Bridge Authority and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, two authorities governing one of the most important border crossings, revenues are ‘plummeting‘ almost three years into the pandemic. In their joint report, they have decried the national governments’ decision to turn a blind eye to the pressing issues.
These authorities reiterate that small businesses like Tripp’s are paying the price as traffic levels remain ‘about half of pre-pandemic 2019’. Other officials and stakeholders based in Buffalo and other border areas have voiced their own concerns, especially after the relaunch of train service between the two countries has not proved sufficient to boost travel.
They have stated that local economies depending on cross-border visitors are still suffering due to restrictions imposed both by the White House and Ottawa, which lead tourists hoping to experience a sense of ‘normality’ when traveling to avoid overly strict destinations altogether – like Canada.
Congressman Brian Higgins, representing the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York, has added that ‘border communities in the US and Canada are not nearly where they should be’, calling existing border measures a ‘redundancy’ and ‘obstacles’ they need to get rid of. So far, neither American nor Canadian leaders have responded.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com