Canada’s land border duty free shops are still languishing even though US travellers can visit Canada, with sales still down more than 80% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Results from a survey released by the Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA) this week laid bare the continued challenges faced by small independently owned land border duty free companies, which suffered a 95% drop in sales during the full closure of the US/Canada land border for over 18 months.
In response, FDFA is calling on Canada’s federal government to implement several measures including the ‘urgent priority’ of lobbying President Biden’s administration to open the US land border to fully vaccinated Canadians.
CALL TO IMPLEMENT BRIDGE PROGRAMME
“During the last several months, we have lost the initiative on this issue in Washington,” said FDFA. “Over 70 Congressional leaders have signed a letter to President Biden to open the Canada/US border.”
Secondly, FDFA is urging the elimination of ‘expensive’ PCR tests for fully vaccinated US visitors crossing the land border.
The association says the move ‘makes no scientific sense’, using the example of Hockey stadiums that are now operating at 100% capacity in comparison to a family of four travellers footing a high testing bill to cross over the border by car.
“This unscientific approach must end given that random testing over the past few months has demonstrated there is no risk to ending the pre-testing,” continued FDFA.
Thirdly, FDFA is instructing Canada’s Parliament to quickly implement the Liberal Party’s election campaign pledge to provide a Bridge Programme targeted at assisting the hardest-hit businesses, including those within travel and tourism.
TRBusiness was told recently that the Bridge Programme offers a ‘huge potential win’ if delivered and would provide support to businesses where revenues are at least 40% down compared with the pre-pandemic scenario, helping them to survive until normal operations resume.
Tourism-based businesses and border stores have been closed and deeply affected throughout the pandemic, adds FDFA.
FDFA Executive Director Barbara Barrett said: “This is a matter of fairness. As long the land border remains almost closed, we cannot survive and have a future without support. Our retailers closed to protect Canadians and we deserve not to be left behind and kill a 40-year-old export sector.”
The US/Canada land border closure order was first made in March 2020 by the White House and Canada’s cabinet.
The land border partially reopened to fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents visiting Canada for non-essential travel on 9 August on the basis they can produce a negative PCR Covid-19 test.
However, the move was not reciprocated, with the US’s land border closed to all but essential services for some 20 months.
The US extended restrictions at its land border with Canada and Mexico on 20 September, though this is due to be reviewed on 21 October.
“Our stores are appreciative of the federal supports for business forced to close or nearly close during the entire pandemic,” added Barrett.
“We also appreciate the Liberal promise during the federal campaign to extend the support for tourism-based businesses into next year. We are a tourism-based business that is the hardest hit of the hardest hit businesses in Canada.”
For more on the Canada/US land border situation, watch out for the TRBusiness October e-zine.