CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ --The recent announcement that the opening of the United States-Canadian border has been delayed until at least August 21, has ended Cape May County's hope that they could recoup some of the losses in Canadian visitors last year. The border has been closed since March 21, 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions with local officials and businesses owners anticipating the reopening on July 21. Canadian officials announced they would allow Canadians to cross the border into the U.S. on August 9, after meeting vaccine requirements for travel.
"The delay in opening the U.S.-Canadian border further impedes recovery of our tourism industry, impacting visitor spending in Cape May County from Canada by nearly $2 million. At a time when the southern border is being flooded with immigrants on a daily basis, we are stopping visitors from coming into the United States at our northern border, it makes no sense," said Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald M. Thornton.
French Canadian visitors from the Province of Quebec have been coming to Cape May County for vacations since 1968. The Cape May County Department of Tourism had an office in downtown Montreal for 25 years, closing the office in 1995. Since that time, the County has had a Canadian PR Consultant to promote the Jersey Cape in Canada who works directly with the media and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) to help drive that market to our resorts and campgrounds.
Commissioner Vice-Director Leonard C. Desiderio said, "Over the years, the impact of the Canadian visitor has been felt throughout the County. As Commissioner and Mayor of Sea Isle City, we have seen first-hand the growing number of Canadians that visit and support our businesses. Our summer season is short, every day counts. Our campground industry relies heavily on Canadians mostly from the Province of Quebec who have been coming for more than 50 years. These are return visitors that stay for longer periods, with most staying between 10 and 14 days. The delay in opening the border has a devastating effect on tourism, especially after a pandemic that shut us down last year."
On average, the Canadian visitor to Cape May County spends $1,411 per person, and the average stay is 11 nights. The Canadian Construction Holiday is a two-week holiday that traditionally takes place during the last two weeks of July where all construction projects are suspended. Over the years, some projects such as construction and repairs on roads and bridges do not shut down and workers are given a two-week holiday at another time. During the 1970s through the early 1990s, most Canadian visitors arrived at the end of July and their presence was more noticeable.
"Ten percent of our visitor base during July and August is made up of Canadians and they are our largest International visitor. In 2019, we experienced a record year for tourism generating $6.9 billion dollars and a favorable exchange rate brought more Canadians to the area. Cape May County has been marketing to Canadians from the Province of Quebec since 1968, and we have cultivated a visitor base that goes back two and three generations. While Canada is planning big events to entice US travelers across the border, we are shut down and losing revenue for our small businesses." Desiderio added.
The exchange rate over the years has resulted in changes in Canadian travel patterns as they adjust to difference in the value of the Canadian dollar. Currently, the exchange rate is .79, which translates into every $1000 in Canadian currency, they will receive $794.63 in U.S. dollars. Many offset the loss by shortening their stay or reducing spending.
The impact in terms of visitors nights is nearly 1 million fewer overnight stays in this County. August 21 is too late for our Canadian friends to vacation in Cape May County. Canadian schools follow the same calendar as we do and by that date, they would not be planning an extended vacation. The fact that Canada is willing to open the border on August 9 and this Administration has decided to wait until August 21 is merely an attempt to one-up the Canadian Government at the expense of our small businesses. Let me make this very clear, we are not inviting people into our Country that are not vaccinated, Prime Minister Trudeau has been vigilant in ensuring Canadian citizens and those that travel are vaccinated. Canada has a higher vaccination rate than the U.S.," Thornton added.