NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Whether flying or driving, for many, travel was impossible during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For nearly 20 months, the U.S. and Canada turned away tourists at entry points across the 5,500-mile land border in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
Now that fully-vaccinated individuals are again allowed to cross the border on each side, how are travelers helping the local economy?
On a blustery day in Niagara Falls, travelers are out enjoying the sights.
They’re not just from close-by Ontario. Juan Fernando and his family are visiting all the way from Columbia
“This is our first time visiting the falls. It’s really beautiful. The color is amazing,” explains Juan Fernando.
Niagara Falls' Mayor Robert Restaino says this time of year, through the end of winter, is the off-season. This year, in addition to Canadian and American visitors, the city is greeting more people from all over the world.
“Some of what you’re going to see this deep in the year is based on the fact that there were so many limitations. Folks all across the globe… it has something to do with pent-up demand," explains Mayor Restaino.
He says that these travelers are dining in restaurants and shopping at stores, helping to boost the local economy. Despite the uptick in tourism since the shutdown, Restaino believes that the revenue lost during the pandemic will never be recouped because, without enough customers, so many businesses had to close.
Now the question is, how is the Canadian economy fairing after allowing fully-vaccinated Americans to enter the country again on August 9 2021. Other countries were invited about a month later.
“We have a lot of guests from the States who stay with us all of the time It's now been almost weekly that we're sold out," says Nicole Payette, Waterfront Hotel Supervisor of a Burlington hotel.
Kristene Smith, Executive Director for Tourism Burlington describes why she believes travelers are now visiting the area.
“The natural places, paths and walking spaces, anywhere where they can be out. They were itching to get out of their homes," adds Smith.
Whether people are crossing the border to meet with family and friends, or planning a vacation, country leaders agree that it will help the local economy. However, many anticipate that total recovery from the pandemic will take a very long time.