NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — Today marks the end of the federal COVID-19 emergency and Canadians entering the U.S. no longer have to be vaccinated.
Businesses in Niagara Falls missed out on serving Canadians who weren’t able to drive over the border because of the United State’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for international travelers.
Craft Kitchen & Bar owner, Bill Olesiuk, is relieved that mandate is lifted.
“Feeling great. We’re excited. I’ve got some old people from Canada that haven’t been around in a couple of years are finally getting back with the no restrictions they’re happy to be here,” Olesiuk said.
“I’m excited. No more restrictions. The border is completely open. I’m excited for things to get back to normal and people traveling again,” said Gaelan Ballie, who owns Sight See Rentals.
Gaelan is also the chair of the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association. He’s already starting to see more tourists in the Falls compared to this time last year.
“I think it’s going to be a very busy year. Just now with sales, online booking we’ve been up so we expect it to be a very busy season,” he said.
Tourism officials say throughout the pandemic there was a surge in domestic travelers.
“Thank goodness for the domestic market, because we lost our international travelers during those years, as well as Canada. So the domestic customers, domestic visitors, filled the gap strongly,” said John Percy, President & CEO of Destination Niagara USA.
Percy expects those numbers to drop slightly, but hopes visitors from out of the country could balance it out.
“We look forward to a return to a more normal travel pattern, because what’s happening is domestic people that live in the United States can travel abroad for freely and we’re starting to see that,” Percy said.
Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.