Region readying for influx of visitors

Canada Border Services Agency plaza entering Canada from the Thousand Islands on Sept. 29. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Corey C. Fram, director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, says the north country is ready to welcome fully vaccinated Canadians back over the border on Monday.

He expects an immediate influx of Canadian visitors coming down to the north country to shop and enjoy short-duration visits.

“They’ll be passing by my window,” he said, referring to the Tourism Council’s office located in the shadows of the Thousand Islands International Bridge in Alexandria Bay.

The Salmon Run Mall and other retailers are excited about Canadian visitors who can finally cross the border to shop.

“We’re definitely excited about having them come down and visit us,” mall Marketing Manager Karla Woods said Friday.

Getting the border reopened just before the height of the holiday shopping season will make Christmas a lot brighter for retailers.

The U.S.-Canadian Border has been closed to nonessential travelers since March 2020, shortly after the pandemic began. The border will open at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

With the holidays approaching, Mr. Fram expects Canadians will be crossing the border for a mixture of reasons, for retail shopping, food and beverage, and retail/food trips.

Under the restrictions, Canadian visitors must be fully vaccinated within 72 hours of crossing the border.

If the trip is less than 72 hours, people can take a pre-arrival molecular COVID-19 test before leaving Canada. If the test is over 72 hours old when they reenter Canada, they will be required to get a new pre-arrival molecular test in the United States.

That means getting a COVID test on this side of the border. And the cost of a COVID test could pose an issue for Canadian travelers crossing the border, Mr. Fram said.

A family of four spending more than 72 hours in the north country could spend around $200 for tests, he said.

So Mr. Fram suggests giving Canadian travelers special discounts, deals or values to offset those COVID test costs.

Ms. Woods suggested Canadian shoppers take a look at the mall’s website to find out everything they will need to know about the border opening. Information is posted about new stores that have opened during the past 17 months and about special offers specifically tailored to travelers. It also lists testing sites in the north country for travelers staying more than 72 hours.

Mr. Fram has talked directly to Canadian Border Patrol in Lansdowne, Ontario, to make sure he knows exactly what the border opening entails. He has distributed tips about the border opening to about 250 tourism operators in the north country.

Earlier this week, he was on a conference call with the state’s Division of Tourism and tourism officials from across the state to talk about border opening.

To prepare for the big day, he’s also talking with Marshall Weir, deputy chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development, about what to expect in the north country.

While they are available on both sides of the border, Mr. Weir said the accessibility of tests are more limited in the U.S.

Canada opened its border for people from the United States in August. Mr. Fram sees no reason why the U.S. couldn’t have done the same then, saying “it was long, long overdue.”

Canadian snowbirds also will be crossing the border on their way to southern states. They must be vaccinated. Their return trip to Canada, however, will require COVID testing to reenter their country.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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