As travellers prepare to face tougher passport rules tomorrow, southern Alberta border towns fear a slowdown in traffic could leave an economic chill.
Effective tomorrow, Canadians will be required to show a valid passport, a NEXUS card, a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card, or an enhanced driver’s licence/enhanced identification card when entering the U.S. by land or water, said Patricia Giolti, spokeswoman with the Canada Border Service Agency.
“A passport is always the best tool to travel with,” she said.
The U.S. government will also require Americans entering their homeland to have a passport, passport card or other travel document as of tomorrow.
But businesses such as the Carway Gift and Duty Free Shop at the Carway border crossing fear traveller traffic will dwindle as they contend with the stricter rules, said manager Pat Whiteoak.
“Definitely — they were saying on the news that 30% of Americans have passports,” she said. “It is a big concern.”
She said the summer is always a busy time for travellers seeking a good time or a good deal across the border.
“We really don’t know what to expect, but I have a feeling it won’t be good,” she said.
At least one business in the border village of Coutts has been providing passport applications at its store.
But Darren Weis, who works at the Double Tree Inn in Coutts, said he doesn’t believe there will be a noticeable change in traffic as travel is already slow.
“I don’t think it should make a difference,” he said.
“Travel has slowed down since the recession, there’s less people moving around.”
Meanwhile, workers in other Canadian border cities, such as Niagara Falls, Ont., are fearing the new rules will hurt that city’s tourism industry.
Tim Ruddy, who works on the Maid of the Mist boat tours that ply the waters below the Falls, said U.S-based tour operators tell him they’re expecting a significant drop in clients — and were filling their buses in the months leading up to June in an effort to cushion the blow.
“We certainly don’t expect a record-breaking tourist season for Niagara,” said Greg Medulun, who speaks for Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara, two light-studded gambling behemoths that overlook the Falls and typically draw huge crowds.