‘It’s nice to see the borders relaxed’: Lincoln tourism businesses optimistic after travel rules scrapped

As the federal government relaxes border restrictions for people coming into Canada, tourism-focused businesses will hope guests from the U.S. will come over for a taste of Niagara.

As of Oct. 1, the Canadian government has scrapped COVID-19 restrictions for travellers arriving in the country, ending all requirements for federal border testing, quarantine and isolation.

That means travellers don’t have to provide proof of vaccination, they don’t have to isolate or take preentry and arrival tests and they don’t have to use the ArriveCan app.

Heidi Fielding, marketing director at Fielding Estates Winery, is hopeful the relaxation will see an increase in people visiting the winery, especially those coming from the U.S.

“We’re excited and optimistic about our U.S. customers coming back,” said Fielding. “The U.S. customers have always been a big part of our customer base.”

Fielding said wineries expect visitors to come from the U.S. no matter the season or weather. “It would be snowing the blizzard of blizzards and we would be open and you’re like: ‘no one’s going to come today.’ But someone would pull up and they’re like: ‘well, I’m from Buffalo’,” said Fielding.

That was echoed by Christine McAlpine, who owns the House by the Side of the Road bed and breakfast near Beamsville. She said Americans are coming back, and she’s already had several bookings from American guests and more inquiries. “It’s nice to see the borders relaxed,” she said.

At Cave Spring winery Dee Dee Cowan, director of on-site sales and marketing, said it would be a little harder to judge the immediate impact of the relaxation on tourism, since it is no longer high season for tourism. “It will be interesting to see if the traffic for wineries does increase with the easing of restrictions (at the border) because we are now heading into our quieter months,” she said. “It would be a very welcome sight!”

Both Fielding and McAlpine said Niagara was a great destination for our neighbours to the south, especially because of the relative strength of the U.S. dollar, which is around eight per cent stronger against the Canadian dollar since this time last year.

“(Niagara) is an amazing place to come,” said Fielding. “Overall, they’re getting such good value … (Their) dollar is so strong it’ll seem like (they) won the lottery here.”

And McAlpine believes the money coming in from travellers will provide a financial benefit to the region. “They’re going to help our economy,” she said.

During the pandemic, Fielding said wineries and other tourist businesses have invested in creating new experiences, such as the domes at Fielding winery.

That means as Americans start to come back in larger numbers, they’ll get a new experience to when they last came back.

“They’re going to come back to a reinvigorated Niagara,” said Fielding. “And we’re ready. We’re excited.”

Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News