Now that Canada no longer requires COVID-19 testing of vaccinated travelers, tourism is on the rise in many US border communities. In New York, Plattsburgh is experiencing a surge in tourism.
TO MARTINEZ, HOST:
Now that Canada no longer requires COVID-19 testing of vaccinated travelers, tourism is on the rise in many US border communities. Amy Feiereisel of North Country Public Radio takes us to one such town just 60 miles south of Montreal.
AMY FEIEREISEL, BYLINE: The town of Plattsburgh is perched on the long, skinny Lake Champlain, New England’s largest lake. There is a Canadian border crossing just 20 minutes north. Canadian tourists are the bread and butter of this region.
KRISTY KENNEDY: Sixty miles from Montreal, it’s our No. 1 market. They’re the ones visiting. They are the ones who use this domain.
FEIEREISEL: It’s Kristy Kennedy. It works with the regional chamber of commerce. She says COVID-19 has meant two long years of almost no Canadian tourism. That was until about six weeks ago when Canada dropped its testing requirements.
KENNEDY: It was huge. We’ve already seen, you know, a record number of Canadians coming back to the area. Bus tours are back. Our races resume. Our restaurants see it.
FEIEREISEL: This small town of 30,000 people has really been missed by Canadian visitors – although many people are avoiding air travel, there has been an increase in New Yorkers and New Englanders vacationing closer to at their home. But there were other problems to solve. Much of the tourism industry here relies on seasonal visas from places like Jamaica and South America.
KENNEDY: And there were a lot of hiccups in that process during the pandemic, so they weren’t getting the workers they needed, so their business suffered.
FEIEREISEL: Even local workers were hard to find. At the Plattsburgh Boat Basin, a marina on Lake Champlain, they were able to keep their longtime workers. But co-owner Art Spiegel says it’s been hard to find additional help, and missing Canadians have been particularly hard on them here. But today, the marina is buzzing with activity.
ART SPIEGEL: We have boat owners who work here on their boats, who repair their boats.
FEIEREISEL: The sun shines on rows and rows of sailboats. Most have Montreal or Quebec painted under the name of the boat.
SPIEGEL: We have the docks and we have been preparing all week for the influx of boaters who can finally come and enjoy their property after two years at the border.
FEIEREISEL: Before the pandemic, Spiegel says 80% of their boaters were Canadian. Now that the border is almost back to normal, at least for vaccinated travelers, Speigel says he expects a busy summer. The platforms are filling up quickly.
SPIEGEL: I hope the marina will be half full of boats, and the other half will be sailing, and at night they will enter a full marina.
FEIEREISEL: That means many more Canadians are spending their time and money in communities all along the border.
For NPR News, I’m Amy Feiereisel on the shores of Lake Champlain.
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