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COVID-19: Tourist towns react to Canada-U.S border opening, but some say it might be too late

Click to play video: 'Tourist towns react to Canadian border reopening to Americans' Tourist towns react to Canadian border reopening to Americans
WATCH: Canada will begin allowing fully-vaccinated Americans into the country starting Aug. 9, 2021. But the American side of the border will remain closed to Canadians – Jul 23, 2021

The land border will see its first major change in over a year since being closed in March 2020. Contrary to Canada’s move, the U.S. has now extended its border closure to Canada and Mexico until at least Aug. 21.

For border towns like Rockport, tourism is significant to the local economy and keeping the border closed to American tourists until late summer will have a significant impact.

Read more: Canada-U.S. border partnership doesn’t guarantee bilateral COVID-19 restrictions: ambassador

Kathleen Allen, President and General Manager of RockPort Cruises says, “It’s definitely been a challenge for us, as well as many other businesses in tourism, of course. We do rely quite heavily on the international market especially.

“We specialize in that group tour market so, seeing the borders open even this first step is a very important first step for us. So we’re very happy to see that first step.”

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Just across the St. Lawrence River sits the U.S.-Canada border. And although Thousand Islands Tourism says up to 90 per cent of tourism industry business has been lost during the border closure, the thread of COVID-19 makes the decision to reopen a little more difficult.

Read more: U.S. border restrictions for Canada, Mexico renewed until Aug. 21

“The potential for a fourth wave would honestly kill the tourism industry. You know, we really need to be mindful and more of a plan needs to come out from the federal government at this point,” says Amy Kirkland, executive director of Thousand Islands and Gananoque Chamber of Commerce.

For some seasonal businesses like Rockport Cruises, the August reopening may be too late.

Allen says, “I think we’re probably looking at seeing some benefit next year. I think that it’s maybe a little bit too late for us this year, but it’s a good start.”

Until then, Canadians are encouraged to continue supporting local in an effort to keep these businesses afloat.

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