Extension of Canada-U.S. border closure means tough times continue for local businesses
VANCOUVER -- Canadian and American officials have agreed to keep the border closed to non-essential travel for at least another month, sending more shockwaves through the tourism industry.
The agreement to keep the border closed until Aug. 21 has been extended to at least Sept. 21. The ban on leisure travel was first introduced in March when the pandemic began and has been extended each month since.
“It’s a big hit,” says Jay Kim, owner of Jo-E Cycles rental shop in downtown Vancouver. “No tourists, I mean it’s really hard for the business.”
Kim says that last year he employed ten people at his Denman Street shop, but this year it’s down to he’s down to two.
“I have never experienced anything like this and never expected to have no tourists, so it’s very hard to see what’s going to happen”, he said. “But I have to respect the government’s opinion to protect Canadian citizens.”
According to Canada Border Services Agency, between March 22 and August 5 a total of 14,723 foreign nationals were denied entry from the United States into Canada. CBSA says that’s because it found that those travellers’ purpose was discretionary, and therefore not essential. Of those who were denied entry, about 12,000 were U.S. citizens and nearly 2,000 were citizens of other countries.
The economic impacts of those border denials are widespread. With no American or international tourists, Prince of Whales Adventures, a whale watching company based on Granville Island, is relying on Canadian customers. It is still running tours, but with fewer people. Its main vessels can carry two hundred passengers but Covid-19 restrictions allow for only fifty.
“It’s obviously been slower, usually in the spring we’re going full bore,” said Anthony Kaulfuss, a ship captain for the company.
“We didn’t get started until July 1st this year. We’re trying to make the best out of an obviously unprecedented and challenging situation. I would say 50 per cent of our guests this year are local, from British Columbia and maybe 50 per cent are from … other parts of Canada.”
This is the fifth renewal of the border restrictions since the coronavirus pandemic was declared.