Monday, June 19, 2006

The United States and Canada share one of the world’s longest borders.

Introduction

The United States and Canada share one of the world’s longest borders. The two countries are each other’s largest trading partners. They share common values, business and family ties that make their relationship unique. Canadians and Americans regularly cross the border to work, shop, vacation and enjoy each other’s country.

Media reports generated by incidents such as the 9/11 tragedy, SARS and continued hostilities in the Middle East, have created negative perceptions and confusion in both countries about the length of time it takes to cross the border and the personal documentation required.

In April 2005, officials from the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced proposed new travel rules that called for Canadians to have a passport to travel to the U.S. and for U.S. citizens to have a passport to return to the States after visiting Canada.

President George W. Bush responded within days and was critical of the proposal stating that it could, “disrupt the honest flow of traffic.” Despite the President’s direction to find alternatives to the passport proposal, perceptions that Americans now require a passport have resulted in a sharp decline in cross border traffic on the Niagara frontier, one of the major economic and tourism gateways between the United States and Canada.

The Easy Crossing Council

In order to address the negative perceptions that there are long delays at the international bridges and that passports are required for citizens of either country to cross the border and return home, a consortium of major tourism and border partners in Canada’s Niagara region have come together to form the Easy Crossing Council (ECC). The mandate of the council is to aggressively and comprehensively combat the misconceptions and negative media reports about the difficulty of cross border travel.

Founding members of the Easy Crossing Council include: The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (Peace Bridge Authority), The Niagara Parks Commission, The Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce, Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. The ECC has adopted the slogan “No Passport/Few Delays” and will communicate its message to residents in border states including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

The ECC’s communications campaign will include: paid media and advertising, public relations, distribution of border crossing advisory cards through a concierge program and sponsorships, as well as outreach to media, hospitality and tourism operators. The ECC will also call on government officials in Washington to seriously consider the impact on trade and tourism when making decisions about travel documentation requirements. U.S. hospitality and tourism operators in border markets have also been negatively impacted by a decline in Canadian visitation. The ECC will call upon U.S. tourism partners and operators to join the ECC in its effort to combat misconceptions on border crossing issues.

Review of Statistics and Perceptions

The Easy Crossing Council has compiled the following facts and statistics that indicate a gap exists between perception and reality over border crossing issues. The two key perceptions this Report will address are:

  1. Long delays are routine in crossing the border.
  2. Passports are required for U.S. and Canadian citizens to cross the border and return home.

Border Crossing Perceptions
A June 2005 report commissioned for the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation stated that 17% of Americans in key U.S. markets are less inclined to travel to Ontario because of perceived difficulty/delays at the border.

-Travel Intention Study Report Summer ’05 Intentions TNS Canadian Facts

Border Crossing Realities

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and the Peace Bridge Authority compiled the following statistics between May and June 2005. Overall, there are generally minimal to no delays (i.e. a few minutes) in either direction at Niagara’s three border crossings.

Overall

  • 90% of the time there is no delay for cars at Niagara Border Crossings.
  • 87% of the time there is no delay for trucks and buses at Niagara Border Crossings.

Crossing Into Canada

  • 91% of the time there is minimal or no delay for cars crossing into Canada.
  • 88% of the time there is minimal or no delay for trucks and buses crossing into Canada.

Crossing Into the U.S.

  • 89% of the time there is minimal or no delay for cars crossing into the U.S.
  • 85% of the time there is minimal or no delay for trucks and buses crossing into the U.S.

Instances of Long Delays

  • 3.5% of the time there are delays of 30 minutes or longer for cars at Niagara Border Crossings.
  • 2.5% of the time there are delays of 30 minutes or longer for trucks and buses at Niagara Border Crossings.

Crossing Times By Bridge
The following are crossing times by each of Niagara’s three unrestricted border crossings:

Lewiston-Queenston

  • 84% of the time there are minimal or no delays for cars.
  • 90% of the time there are minimal or no delays for trucks and buses.

Rainbow Bridge

  • 90% of the time there are minimal or no delays for cars.

Peace Bridge

  • 97% of the time there minimal or delays for cars.
  • 84% of the time there are minimal or no delays for trucks and buses.

Border Documentation Perceptions

A June 2005 report commissioned for the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation offered the following findings:

  • 33% of Americans in key markets believe passports are required for travel between Canada and the U.S.
  • 68% of Americans in key markets believe passports will be required by the beginning of 2008 for travel between Canada and the U.S.

    -Travel Intention Study Report Summer ’05 Intentions TNS Canadian Facts

Border Documentation Realities

Although the U.S. Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act proposes a requirement for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to present appropriate security identification and citizenship documentation when entering the United States, this does not necessarily constitute a passport.

The U.S. Department of State indicates on the Department website that, “Travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada will be required to have a passport or other secure, accepted documents to enter or re-enter the United States.”

However, there is currently no passport requirement for U.S. visitors to Canada. U.S. President Bush believes that there is flexibility in the law and has concerns for the impact on the legal flow of traffic and people. Citizens of the United States and Canada should carry proof of citizenship such as:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization
  • Photo Identification
  • Valid Visa
  • Letter of joint custody for children
  • Letter of permission with phone number for parents of children that are not yours but traveling with you

Passports can also be used and permanent resident of the U.S. should bring their Permanent
Resident Card (i.e., Green Card) with them.

Impact of Negative Perceptions on Travel

The negative perceptions about cross border travel have resulted in less cross border travel by Americans and Canadians. Each month of 2005 has resulted in declines over the previous year. Recent statistics released by Statistics Canada on July 20, 2005 show that for May 2005 both Canadians and U.S. citizens took fewer trips compared to the previous year.

  • U.S. visitors to Ontario dropped 9% since last May to 1.6 million. The decline includes both same-day and overnight visitors.
  • For the first five months of 2005, the number of Americans visiting Ontario fell 8% over the same period in 2004 and 12% over the same time in 2003.
  • There has been a 7% decrease in overnight visitors to Ontario since last May.
  • Recent Statistics Canada figures indicate that day trips to Canada in May '05 have fallen to the third lowest level in 30 years.
  • Canadians also took fewer trips to the U.S. with Canadian travel falling to 3.1 million trips in May, down 0.4% compared to April.
  • American travel to Canada reached a nine-month low in May with 2.7 million Americans visiting Canada, representing a 1.5% decrease from April.

Other Activities and Initiatives of the Easy Crossing Council

Following the release of the Easy Crossing Report, the ECC will be undertaking a number of initiatives to get the message out about crossing the border and about the required documentation needed for both Canadian and American citizens. These initiatives include:

  • A Concierge/Hospitality program to arm hospitality operators and workers with the facts about how to make crossing the border as easy as possible;
  • Distribution of the border crossing advisory cards;
  • Outreach to U.S. media, tourism and hospitality operators;
  • Set up of an FM frequency with border crossing information;
  • Outreach to U.S. government officials; and
  • Paid media campaign in key drive time U.S. markets.

The Easy Crossing Council Members

Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission
The Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce
The Niagara Parks Commission
The Peace Bridge Authority
Casino Niagara

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home