Fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed into Canada since Aug. 9 and Niagara-on-the-Lake businesses are eager to welcome back our neighbours from south of the border and the money they bring.
So, where are they? Business operators say they have seen few Americans so far.
On Monday afternoon Queen Street was as busy as any Sunday over the past two months. Ontario and Quebec licence plates stretched down the length of Queen, the unbroken line of white and blue interrupted by a lone yellow and black New York state plate. It was the only one spotted in all of Old Town.
Merchants along NOTL’s busy Queen Street say they have not noticed any increase in traffic since the border reopened over a week ago.
“I’ve only seen two that told me (they were American),” said Daniela Kozak, manager of Glamour Jewellery on Queen Street.
“I saw one today and one yesterday who was visiting a friend. But otherwise, not really.”
Kozak was not alone in the observation.
“I haven’t seen much of an impact yet,” said Cows NOTL manager Sherri McIntyre.
“It’s nice to see Americans again, I really miss them, for one. They’re positive and they’re happy to be here, they like spending their money and they’re kind.”
But the ice creamery’s manager said they are few and far between.
Americans entering Canada need to have proof they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. This could be one reason for the low influx of American visitors, Kozak said.
“It’s a restriction and people don’t want to do it.”
Kozak suggested the vaccine mandate for entering the country is a form of discrimination.
“I think there should not be a discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated. Everyone should have the right to travel and the right to visit just as it was before (the pandemic),” she said.
“It’s a big discrimination and it shouldn’t be.”
McIntyre viewed the situation differently.
“I think it’s just taking some time for everybody to realize that they can (cross the border),” she said.
“It’s a timing thing more than anything. I hope (the border) gets busy again.”
McIntyre said that while an influx of Americans would be nice, her business has been having a fine summer without them.
Cows often has a line stretching out the door and down Queen Street.
“And that’s not Americans, that’s people from Toronto – people from within two hours of us,” McIntyre said.
The jewelry store has been getting on fine with just Canadian support as well, Kozak said.
“(Business) has been very good with locals and Canadians, very, very good,” she said.
Travel restrictions around the world have forced more Canadians to take their vacations within their own country.
“So far it’s been very good. I’m glad that Canadians are staying here, to be honest. I am very glad,” Kozak said
“Everything you need is (in Niagara-on-the-Lake). So, why not shop here? Personally, that’s where I do all my shopping. I don’t go to the mall, I support the locals.”
McIntyre said Cows has had no shortage of business throughout the summer. The real struggle has been having enough staff to keep up with the demand.
“That’s our biggest problem throughout the whole pandemic,” she said.
“I think for us it’s because (our staff) are students. They’re young.”
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report