Optional ArriveCan: 'Too little, too late' for cross-border tourism

The decision on Monday to make the ArriveCan app optional by the federal government serves no justice to the loss that the Roosevelt Campobello International Park faced this summer.

"It's too little, too late," said New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson.

According to Jon Southern, the park's executive director superintendent, the park is "down to 15 to 20 per cent" of its usual visitor numbers, accounting for approximately an 80 per cent loss of tourist traffic.

He said although he is happy that the step has finally been taken, they were expecting help earlier.

Southern said with the park will be closing for the season on Oct. 15. "I don't anticipate that we'll see a massive rush in the last two weeks of the season."

Earlier in July, Southern told the Telegraph-Journal that the park was losing about a third of its expected American visitors, also adding that, according to the demographics, about 85 per cent of the park's total visitors are Americans. At that time, both Williamson and Southern were pushing to scrap ArriveCan to help protect the island's economy from taking a hit.

On Monday, Southern told the newspaper Williamson was the only one who came down to see the impact and helped them follow the "proper political process" to review the app back in June, he said. "We didn't expect that it would just be overlooked until September and by then the damage is done for a lot of the small businesses."

Although Williamson had filed a motion and it was backed by both the parties at that time, the decision is still "too little, too late," said Southern.

"The frustrating part of it is that ... when we spoke to both Liberal and Conservative politicians, we couldn't find any support for the ArriveCan app," he said, "So the question is, why did it take this long when everybody was aware of the impact to particularly small businesses and border communities?"

"You didn't need a crystal ball to see what the impact would be."

Southern said after the decision on Monday morning, he is expecting a boost in the visitor numbers next summer as it would take some time for the word to get around.

"Had it been utilized properly, it could have been an excellent system," he said, criticizing the app for being too complicated for seniors and not making many Americans feel comfortable putting their personal details into another country's app. "They told me at the U.S. border that they're down at least 300 cars a day from the pre-pandemic level."

"We will market like crazy that ArriveCan is gone," he said looking forward to next summer.

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal