Buffalo, New York area Congressman Brian Higgins, Visit Buffalo Niagara & Destination Niagara USA Lead Discussion on the Economic Impact of Travel & Tourism in Western New York
Talks Come as Travel at the US-Canadian Border Remains Below Pre-Pandemic Levels
A News Release from the Buffalo, New York office of U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins
Posted September 1st, 2022 on Niagara At Large
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York – Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) joined representatives from Visit Buffalo Niagara and Destination Niagara USA, for a roundtable discussion led by the U.S. Travel Association, with Western New York leaders, organizations and destinations about the importance of travel and tourism to the local economy.
“As we continue moving toward a post-pandemic world, remaining restrictions and measures related to COVID-19 at the US-Canadian border are discouraging people from resuming cross-border travel at the same rate as before the pandemic,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.
“The U.S. and Canadian economies have historically been connected by travel and tourism, especially in Western New York and Southern Ontario. In order to revive our local economies to their pre-pandemic levels we must remove the barriers to travel and return to northern border management that encourages the convenient and efficient flow of people between both countries.”
“International travel is key to our economic and jobs recovery, and Rep. Higgins has been a champion for safely restarting and rebuilding cross-border travel,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs and Policy. “The conversation today focused on what’s needed to continue the progress that has been made. We’re grateful to Rep. Higgins for his focus on the full recovery of this vital economic sector.”
According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2019 domestic and international travelers spent $2.9 billion while visiting NY-26 and supported 22,126 jobs. After the northern border closed in March of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel-related spending dropped by 54 percent and job numbers dropped by 35 percent. In 2021, when the border began to reopen, spending by domestic and international travelers increased by over 76% in Erie County and 109% in Niagara County.
Patrick Kaler, President and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara said, “Congressman Higgins has been a longtime champion for Western New York’s tourism industry. His tireless efforts on the issues that impact Buffalo and Erie County’s visitor experience through tourism-related infrastructure projects, cross-border issues, and workforce development have been remarkable and will ensure regional economic success.”
Destination Niagara USA President & CEP John Percy said, “We applaud Congressman Higgins and his endless dedication and passionate support of the tourism industry overall, especially here in Niagara Falls USA. His support and advocation of tourism-related issues nationwide are imperative as we move forward in rebuilding our tourism economies.”
In late June the Canadian government announced it was extending current border restrictions until at least September 30, 2022. Travelers must be vaccinated and both Americans and Canadians are required to submit their health information and travel plans using the ArriveCAN app within 72 hours before arrival.
In addition to Visit Buffalo Niagara and Destination Niagara USA, participants in the travel discussion included representatives from the Buffalo Urban League, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, Old Fort Niagara, U.S. Travel Association, Lockport Locks District, MusicalFaire Theatre, Merani Hotel Group, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, New York State Parks, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, City of Niagara Falls and the Aquarium of Niagara.
Higgins has been a vocal leader in advocating to end COVID-related restrictions and other barriers to entry at the northern border preventing our economies from returning to pre-pandemic levels. He recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus<https://higgins.house.gov/sites/higgins.house.gov/files/8-18-22%20NEXUS%20Backlog.pdf> calling for the agency to address the significant backlog for new applicants to Trusted Traveler Programs, like NEXUS, which allow expedited crossings for pre-screened travelers at the US-Canadian border.
Currently there is a nearly nine-month wait for new applicants trying to schedule screening appointments at the Niagara Falls Enrollment Center, which finally reopened in April 2022 after a prolonged COVID-related closure. Higgins has spoken directly with Commissioner Magnus regarding the NEXUS backlog as well.
Since the initial border closure in March 2020, Congressman Higgins has been in contact with leaders in both the United States and Canada urging for common-sense measures that encourage safe cross-border travel.
In November 2021 he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau<https://higgins.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressman-higgins-house-ways-means-committee-meets-with-canadian-prime> regarding the COVID-19 testing policy at the Canadian Border, calling for a collaborative approach between both countries that will benefit both the U.S. and Canadian economies. In May of 2021, Higgins joined Visit Buffalo Niagara during Tourism Week<https://higgins.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/during-tourism-week-western-new-york-leaders-highlight-the-importance-of> to welcome the Canadian visitor back after the U.S.-Canada border was closed due to the pandemic for over a year.
In October he spoke with White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients urging for binational coordination at the norther border, following up with subsequent letters to the Biden administration.
Additionally, this summer Higgins joined local government leaders in Western New York<https://higgins.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/higgins-ortt-morinello-call-for-preclearance-requirement-imposed-by> and across the border in Canada<https://higgins.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressman-brian-higgins-stands-with-border-leaders-tourism-agencies-in> in calling on the Trudeau Administration to end the ArriveCAN mandate. The app continues to cause headaches for travelers, deterring people from crossing the border for regular trips and tourism.
Congressman Higgins serves as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group and the Congressional Northern Border Caucus. His Western New York district includes the Cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
To watch a Canada Global TV piece on some of the worrisome questions about AriveCAN and the Trudeau government’s continued stubborn support of this questionable border-crossing requirement, click on the screen below –
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