There has been a lot of speculation on the immediate impact of the U.S. Government's new passport requirements on cross border travelling starting June 1, 2009 and many border communities across Canada have already indicated noticable drops in American visitors.
I'm pleased to say, Thunder Bay is not one of those seeing the decline. Hot off the press from Stats Canada this morning, I'm thrilled to report that U.S. residents to Canada are actually up for June 2009 over 2008. This past June, the first month of the new passport requirements, saw 18,313 U.S. residents crossing into Canada at Pigion River, up from 18,243 in 2008. While it's a seemingly insignficant growth of less than 1%, its growth is a far cry from the 10-20% decline expected by most of us in the industry.
Same Day : 1786 (2009) 1656 (2008)
1 night: 399 (2009) 390 (2008)
2+ nights 16128 (2009) 16197 (2008)
the growth appears to have been primarily in the same day and 1 night overnight markets although the fact that the 2+ overnight stay markets were down only by 75 or so people.
What makes this all the more impressive is that the cold spring weather and slowing U.S. economy also added to challenges anticipated. The raw data reported early in July from the border office itself did point to a decrease in total number of automobiles by a staggering 22%. However, in evaluating the most recent breakdown that has separated American and Canadian traffic and identified people versus automobiles, it seems any decline was the result of Canadian's crossing only. This dries home the point that we can't take quick numbers too seriously but rather we have to analyse them in more detail to read what they really identify.
To the end of June, the first half of 2009 saw 38, 115 U.S. residents visit Canada through the Pigion River Center, up from 37,785 in 2008.
Lets hope this positive trend continues and with good data and consumer driven research and campaigns, we're certain to keep moving forward together as an industry.