On Monday, federal officials announced the Canadian border with the United States would open to allow for non-essential travel as of Aug. 9.
American visitors, however, will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the country.
International travellers will only be allowed entry into the country as of Sept. 7.
“Travelers will have to be vaccinated with a Health Canada authorized vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering the country,” said Federal Health Minister Patty Hadju on Monday.
Visitors will still need to present a negative COVID-19 test before coming to Canada, but won’t need to quarantine if they have been fully inoculated.
For many Montreal businesses, who depend on a steady influx of tourists, the relaxed border rules can’t come soon enough.
“We are suffering like hell this year,” said Sam Namour, who runs Galerie Le Chariot — an Inuit art gallery at Place Jacques-Cartier in Old Montreal. “(It’s a) very difficult year.”
Namour has seen his revenues dwindle by close to 90 per cent and has had to rely on online sales.
At this time of the year, his boutique is normally packed.
“My gosh, I should have hundreds of people in my gallery. Hundreds,” Namour said, lamenting the absence of American tourists in his store.
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He fears that an Aug. 9 reopening might even come too late for his business.
“Sure it is going to be good for later on, but my season will be almost over,” Namour said. “July is the American holidays.”
Yves Dufresne, a caricature artist with an outdoor booth in Old Montreal, agreed things haven’t been easy.
“We just received permission to start to work about a week and a half ago,” he said. “Before that we weren’t allowed to work.”
While Dufresne said the streets tend to quieten down earlier in the evening, there are still local Montreal-area tourists and visitors from Ontario.
“Business is looking good,” Dufresne said. “Sure, we miss like people from Europe and the states — it adds more.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Vacante at the nearby Trattaorio Gio restaurant, is also excited to see a new tide of tourists.
“We could definitely use the tourists,” she said, although the restaurant has been busy — especially on weekends.
But with restaurants having been closed for over eight months due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, there’s a lot of catching up to.
Vacante, however, is optimistic the new border rules will extend the normal tourist season into the fall.
“We usually see an influx of tourists for the summer, I think now we’ll be seeing them even more into the fall as well,” she said.
The USA has said it is continuing to review its travel restrictions with Canada and has not yet made a parallel announcement.
— With files from Global News’ Dan Spector