From the Norwich (Connecticut) Bulletin:
With the economy making the U.S. dollar worth almost a third more across our northern border, now is a great time to grab your passport and escape to Canada’s Niagara Region for a chance to view the beauty and power of Niagara Falls, the collective name for the three waterfalls on the Niagara River that drain Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.
Straddling the international border between New York State and the province of Ontario, the Niagara Falls were formed during the last ice age as water from the newly formed Great Lakes made its way to the Atlantic Ocean approximately 25,000 to 21,000 years ago. Renowned for both their beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power, Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls are a true wonder to see and well worth the time spent getting there.
From the Niagara Falls Review:
Ontario’s tourism industry, particularly in Niagara, has been in one long struggle for the better part of the last decade.
Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, border security in the United States has been an ongoing concern; a byproduct of that has been fewer American visitors heading north.
That scenario was magnified last year when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security implemented its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, making a passport a necessity if you plan on crossing the border — or more to the point, if you want to enter the United States.
That means any American without a passport can get out of their homeland, but they can’t get back in.
And because fewer than one in three Americans owns a passport, that has manifested in plummeting tourism numbers.
When Falls the Coliseum (“a journal of American culture[or lack thereof]) has some information on planning a trip to Niagara Falls (including the person’s own itinerary):
We recently took a summer family vacation to Canada. Did you know it’s a different country? It is! You even need passports. We had a great time in Toronto and Niagara Falls, so I’m giving our readers the full itinerary with brief comments about each item. That should make planning your next summer vacation easier (unless you don’t want to go to Canada, in which case it might make your planning more difficult).
Yesterday I linked to a Niagara Falls Review article where there seemed to be some optimism for the summer business. I wanted to add my 2¢…
Last year when June came around, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) came into effect, and all travelers going across the border needed a passport or some other type of secure document. It hit the city hard.
The first thing I noticed last year was that there seemed to be very few students around. Each year previously, you’d see huge groups of kids visiting on school trips. I don’t know for sure where they came from in previous years, but they weren’t anywhere last year. I assume that the US schools didn’t bother with the trip. Now, a year later, there have been lots of kids again. I’m not sure if it is back where it was, but it’s more than last year for sure. I’m sure there are a lot of Canadian schools, but there were t-shirts around from US schools as well. Part of the reason will be that many more people have passports. Another will be that it turns out that school groups where kids are under 18 don’t need passports.
I tweeted last July that Quebec license plates were everywhere. On the other hand, there were very few US license plates to be seen. Anecdotally, there are a lot more licenses plates from US states this year. I mean A LOT more. It isn’t back to the pre-9-11 days, but it is way higher than last year.
I know that the tourism industry is a lot more complicated than this, but based on these two simple observations, business should be better this year. Let’s hope so!
From the Niagara Falls Review:
Plans to build an aquarium in Niagara Falls appear to be a casualty of tougher American travel regulations, now that Ripley Entertainment is gearing up to build one at the base of Toronto’s CN Tower.
Canada Lands Company, which owns the CN Tower, picked Ripley last year as its partner to develop three acres of unused property near the base of Canada’s tallest building.
Ripley had plans for years to build an aquarium near Great Wolf Lodge, a resort also owned by Florida-based Ripley Entertainment, the company famous for its Believe it Or Not attractions. But in 2007, the company shelved those plans.
That’s when tourism operators got nervous about the effect the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative would have on the number of Americans visiting Canada. That rule requiring American citizens and foreigners to show a passport or other secure document when entering the U.S., came into effect in 2009.
“The one at Great Wolf Lodge has been put on hold for right now. It’s still on hold. It’s still on hold for exactly the same reasons,” said Ripley spokesman Tim O’Brien.
From the Niagara Falls Review:
Passports, the economy and cheerleading might not seem to have a lot in common, but they do.
Just ask Nick Nero, organizer of the 26th annual Festival of Lights Cheerleading Championship competition held in Niagara Falls on the weekend.
Teams from the United States, which in past years have brought a lot of business into the honeymoon capital, are staying home.
That’s because many Americans still don’t have passports so they are staying on their side of the border.
“We are down about 40 per cent all because of passports and the economy in the United States,” said Nero. “We just have to bit the bullet this year and hopefully things will pick up again.”
The three-day event, which began on Friday at the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena, is always well attended by teams from the United States, but that trend has been changing. And, with the American and Canadian dollar being so close in value, there is less incentive for Americans to spend there money here, where they once enjoyed a 20 or 30 per cent exchange rate.
“We are just like any other business in Niagara Falls. Everyone is feeling the pinch right now. At one time we were able to book a thousand or 1,200 hotel rooms, but right now it’s probably around five or six hundred,” said Nero.
Someone with a Blogger blog posted about a recent trip to Niagara Falls:
For those who don’t travel regularly, you may not know this, but crossing international borders isn’t as easy as it used to be. Even the Canadian border patrol was surprisingly annoying. You must have a passport now to enter Canada, and when you do they ask you so many questions: where you’re staying, what you do for a living, whether you brought cigarettes into the country, whether you ever drove a pick-up truck, how often you ate asparagus…things like that. Once we were in, we decided we weren’t moving the car again, so SVH and I never saw Niagara Falls from the NY side. We certainly didn’t miss it, however, because the view from the Canadian side is spectacular.