American visitors seem to be returning to Windsor, Ont., following the easing of COVID-19 border restrictions this month, according to some business owners.
“The Americans, when they come over, they usually spend the night here or venture off to the casino afterwards. So the influx of the American clientele here is great for business,” said Filip Rocca, co-owner of Mezzo Restaurant and president of the Erie Street BIA.
Rocca estimates an uptick of about 10 to 15 per cent in U.S. clients.
The owners of El Mayor restaurant say Americans make up 40 per cent of their business, so seeing some of them returning on weekends is really important.
“We see all these families again. We see them reunite here and choose our restaurant to have that place to reunite, and it’s the best feeling in the world. to see that again,” said manager Faith Abbas.
Canada lifted its requirements around COVID-19 vaccination and use of the ArriveCAN app on Oct. 1. Border city mayors had lobbied for an end to the restrictions, saying that the rules were hurting tourism.
Caesars Windsor told CBC that the removal of those measures was a positive step for the casino.
“We are seeing an increase in U.S. guests; however after two and half years, we expect it will take some time for many American tourists to return to our city,” Susanne Tomkins, manager of public relations and communications, said in a statement.
Carolyn Brown, the manager of the Canadian side of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, tells CBC News that traffic is up 7,000 vehicles since the beginning of the month, from 62,000 to 69,000.
The American side of the tunnel reports a 74 per cent increase in vehicles travelling from Detroit to Windsor over the same time last year but it’s still down 15 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Neither side can break down the number of American versus Canadian vehicles.
‘Your dollar goes further in Canada’
Windsor isn’t the only city anxious for the return of U.S. visitors.
The Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ont., recently spent about $50,000 on a marketing campaign in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Buffalo, New York, in an effort to get American theatregoers back.
A full page ad appeared in the Detroit Free Press on Oct. 5 welcoming U.S. visitors, reminding them that “ArriveCAN is no longer required” and “your dollar goes further in Canada.”
“We had heard that there was a perception that the ArriveCAN app was a barrier to crossing the border,” said Michael Adams, the festival’s manager of marketing and audience development. “So telling those people that piece of the puzzle was now removed and the process is simpler, was a really important message for us.”
Adams said 25 per cent of the festival’s business is from Americans. He and other businesspeople CBC spoke with would like to see the province or the local tourism agency do more advertising in the states to remind them about the restrictions being lifted and the dollar being stronger.