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How the border closure is impacting Niagara Falls tourism

Some on the U.S. side say business is better
Posted at 11:51 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 23:51:25-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y — A pandemic and a border closure are not putting the brakes on Sight See Rentals in Niagara Falls.

“People that I would think normally we would lose to the Canadian side, we're getting here that are staying here in Niagara Falls, New York,” Sight See Rentals President Gaelan Baillie said.

Baillie said last Summer 2020 was better than 2019, attracting more people from in state, and nearby places like Ohio and Pennsylvania. He said this is a chance to capitalize on some who may have visited the Canadian side in previous years.

Across the street at Wine on Third, bartender Anthony Santarosa said the loss of Canadians has not hurt business due to new clientile.

“We’re doing some of the best numbers ever right now," Santarosa said. "Honestly a lot of people are coming from other parts of the country and really looking for something different than going to, you know, Europe or the Bahamas or something like that. They’re trying to see cool places within our own country.”

Canada could begin easing border restrictions June 22nd.

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said tourism is critical, but an open border is also about reuniting families and the return of regular border crossers.

“It's really like one neighborhood separated by the river,” Restaino said.

He said he's hoping for a border reopening Fourth of July weekend, saying sales tax and small business have taken a hit with millions of dollars lost.

“You could start on an evening, on a Thursday evening, and work your way all the way through Sunday and there are many times that are roads are equally distributed between Canadian license plates and New York State license plates,” Restaino said.

He wants to see a clearer map to reopening, something Niagara Falls, Ontario Mayor Jim Diodati said him and other border city mayors pushed for in a late May meeting with Canada's Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

“This has been devastating for tourism, billions of dollars lost," Diodati said. "In Niagara Falls, Canada we get upwards of 14 million people every year, typically 25% of them come from the U.S. and they represent 50% of the revenue.”

Baillie said this is the American side's chance to prove itself to tourists for when the border reopens.

“I think I could end up honestly seeing a lot of people take our equipment, scooters and bikes, riding to the Canadian side, which they can do, and hopefully I get people that are staying on the Canadian side to come back across the border over to the American side," Ballie said.