Manitoba’s Tourism Industry Bracing for Impact of Continued Canada-U.S. Border Closure

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s tourism industry is bracing for at least one more month of a non-essential travel ban between Canada and the United States.

The two countries have reached an agreement that will keep border restrictions in place until June 21, even as economies on both sides of the border slowly reopen.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to fishing lodge owners and outfitters, but that doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal with.

“It does create a great deal of angst for our fishing industry, especially our lodges and our outfitters,” said Brian Kotak, executive director of the Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association.

The organization estimates U.S. visitors represent 90 to 95 per cent of the industry’s business. Northern Manitoba lodges located above the 53rd parallel remain off-limits for people who don’t live in the region, meaning they’re still out of reach even to many potential clients living within the province.

“Of course those lodges in the north can’t receive any guests from the south whether it’s from the U.S., Ontario, Saskatchewan or anywhere else,” said Kotak.

Travel Manitoba president and CEO Colin Ferguson said popular tourist destinations such as Churchill could also feel the effects of the continued travel ban, with this summer’s beluga whale-watching season a key concern.

The head of Economic Development Winnipeg, the parent of organization of Tourism Winnipeg, said museums, attractions and restaurants also all rely on cross-border tourism – prompting the organization to shift its messaging.

“We know that there will be an impact,” said president and CEO Dayna Spiring. “We typically have campaigns that encourage people in North Dakota and Minnesota to come to Winnipeg – the dollar is an advantage for them, there’s great things to see and do, there’s great shopping to be had.”

“We’ve had to really pivot and change what our campaign looks like this year and this year it’s going to be about Manitobans. Doing a staycation.”

Tara Davis, owner of Tara Davis Studio Boutique, just reopened the doors to her Exchange District shop. It draws local customers and tourists looking for souvenirs and locally-made art.

Davis expects continued border restrictions will have a ripple effect on her business, especially come summer.

“It really shifts to American tourists away from the locals because a lot of us go to the cottage in Winnipeg,” she said.

Davis is just happy her shop is able reopen and looks forward to welcoming local customers and – when the time is right – tourists.

“For business, sure, I’d like people to come but I think for the safety of all Manitobans it is good to keep the border closed right now.”

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