THUNDER BAY — The busiest travel period of the year is already over, but one tourism promoter in the region says the anticipated end to COVID-19 vaccine requirements at the border is still "great news."
Paul Pepe, manager of Tourism Thunder Bay, was reacting Wednesday to widespread reports that the federal government has decided not to extend existing border restrictions, including the need to show proof of vaccination to enter the country, beyond Sept. 30.
According to government sources, the ArriveCan app will be made optional, and random COVID-19 testing for travellers will also be terminated.
Pepe said national data shows the number of Americans visiting in June was still only about 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
"The ArriveCan app certainly was discriminatory against folks in certain demographics, folks who don't carry phones or get to the border and don't have great data service to download it at the last moment," he said. "We're happy with this, if it does come through."
Pepe said even though "another busy summer" has been lost, dropping the COVID-related requirements bodes well for the fall colour touring market and for people who travel from northern Minnesota to shop, dine, or enjoy a weekend getaway.
"It will definitely open up the market a little more for us for the rest of the year," he said.
Pepe believes lodge operators across the Northwest have been hit the hardest by Canada's entry requirements.
"For a lot of regional lodges, 90 per cent of their market is American. To lose that outright for two seasons, and to only have a partial reopening this year, they've certainly struggled."
If the news of the crossing requirements being lifted is true, he said, it's a positive development for businesses planning for 2023.
"Now there's a certainty that allows us all to go back into the American market with full marketing force."