The United States and Canada share one of the world’s longest borders.
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
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
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
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:
- Long delays are routine in crossing the border.
- Passports are required for
and Canadian citizens to cross the border and return home. U.S.
Border Crossing Perceptions
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
- 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.
- 91% of the time there is minimal or no delay for cars crossing into
- 88% of the time there is minimal or no delay for trucks and buses crossing into
Crossing Into the
- 89% of the time there is minimal or no delay for cars crossing into the
- 85% of the time there is minimal or no delay for trucks and buses crossing into the
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
- 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.
- 90% of the time there are minimal or no delays for cars.
- 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:
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
- 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
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
visitors to U.S. dropped 9% since last May to 1.6 million. The decline includes both same-day and overnight visitors. Ontario
- For the first five months of 2005, the number of Americans visiting
fell 8% over the same period in 2004 and 12% over the same time in 2003. Ontario
- There has been a 7% decrease in overnight visitors to
since last May. Ontario
- Recent Statistics Canada figures indicate that day trips to
in May '05 have fallen to the third lowest level in 30 years. Canada
- Canadians also took fewer trips to the
with Canadian travel falling to 3.1 million trips in May, down 0.4% compared to April. U.S.
- American travel to
reached a nine-month low in May with 2.7 million Americans visiting Canada , representing a 1.5% decrease from April. Canada
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
media, tourism and hospitality operators; U.S.
- Set up of an FM frequency with border crossing information;
- Outreach to
government officials; and U.S.
- Paid media campaign in key drive time