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Niagara, Ont. mayor says border restrictions should have lifted sooner

Click to play video: 'Border cities hoping to boost economic recovery with easing COVID-19 restrictions'
Border cities hoping to boost economic recovery with easing COVID-19 restrictions
WATCH ABOVE: Border cities like Niagara Falls, which significantly depend on American tourists for revenue, hope that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions will aid in economic recovery from the pandemic. Brittany Rosen has more. – Sep 26, 2022

Border cities like Niagara Falls are eager to welcome American tourists following the federal government’s announcement Monday that COVID-19 border restrictions will be eased on Oct. 1.

However, the city’s mayor says the move should have been done ahead of the summer to reap the most economic rewards.

“When you shut tourism down, it’s devastating. This was supposed to be our year of recovery, 2022. And it’s been great for domestic tourism,” Jim Diodati told Global News.

“The downside is Americans have not come back.”

Read more: ArriveCAN, mask mandates among changes as Canada drops COVID-19 border rules

Canadian borders were reopened in March, but only to those who met vaccination requirements. Starting Saturday, anyone will be able to enter the country regardless of their vaccination status.

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While Diodati says restrictions should have been lifted sooner, he adds “we’re grateful that it’s happened.”

As are businesses in the area. While Clifton Hill attractions are expected to thrive, a number of shops on nearby Queen Street have been forced to close their doors as a result of pandemic hardships.

“It doesn’t get as much love as the tourist areas, but there’s a lot of great businesses and restaurants on this street,” said Dominick Barranca, who owns the Back Alley Barber Shop on Queen Street.

Read more: U.S. should follow Canada and scrap COVID-19 border rules, lawmakers urge White House

It’s why Barranca is hoping the anticipated boost in tourism will aid in rebuilding the economy.

“We go over, (Americans) come over. It’s good for business and a lot of people didn’t come because they didn’t want to deal with ArriveCan and all that,” he said.

While businesses in Niagara have been generally optimistic about the news, some, like, Amanda Williams with the Third Space Cafe, are voicing concerns.

“It’s a little concerning that a lot of unvaccinated Americans — who have been a bit careles, perhaps, from what I’ve observed with the masking over the last couple years — will be coming here,” Williams told Global News.

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“But yeah, we should see an increase in business.”

Read more: Mayors, MPs call for end of COVID-19 restrictions at Canada-U.S borders via open letter

According to Diodati, 50 per cent of Niagara’s revenue comes from the U.S., which is why he says it’s crucial to bring American tourists back.

He’s pushing for the prime minister to have a grand reopening of Canada in an effort to draw in more tourists.

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