To somewhat borrow a phrase from the band Simple Minds, “Don’t You Forget About Us.”
It has often seemed to me that Americans forget about the impact Canadians have on their economy when it comes to tourism and travel. We’re easily their biggest market, but the Americans often get all jazzed and doe-eyed thinking about markets like China and Russia and Brazil and forget about those of us up here in Canada.
I understand how that can be. I mean, I’m often critical of Canadian tourism for falling in love with the same countries and getting all exotic and in the process forgetting about the impact of Americans on our travel and tourism industry. So I’m not just railing against the U.S. here.
The reason this comes up is that a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, Albio Sires, has introduced legislation aimed at boosting Canadian visits to the land of Uncle Sam.
“Increasing tourism and encouraging Canadians to continue to visit the U.S. will grow our economy, better relationships with our neighbors to the north and bring money into the U.S. at no cost to the taxpayer,” Sires said in a statement I spotted on politix.com.
The site said more than 400,000 people cross the U.S.-Canada border every day. Sires also notes that New Jersey sells more goods to Canada than to any other country, something he said produces more than 416 billion in trade and impacts more than 227,000 jobs.
“The Promoting Tourism to Enhance our Economy Act is a responsible way to bring additional jobs and revenue into not just the state of New Jersey but the entire country,” he’s quoted as saying.
I haven’t seen any specifics about reducing the need for passports or things like that, and I suspect that border officials aren’t about to do anything major. We’re never going to go back to the pre 9-11 days where Canadians and Americans could just flash a drivers’ license and head over the Ambassador Bridge or cross over from B.C. to Washington State.
But there should be ways of making things easier.
According to politix.com, U.S. Department of Commerce data released last year showed that Canadian tourism to the United States reached a record level of 21 million visits in 2011, spending just under $24 billion in the U.S. According to the report, more than one-third of all foreign visits to U.S. destinations were made by Canadians.
More than one-third, folks. That’s remarkable. And all the more reason for Americans not to forget about us.
Some American cities and states clearly “get” the Canadian market and are quite active in Canada. But others sit back and don’t seem to even consider the size of the Canadian market. And they don’t understand how more of us have passports than Americans do, and how many more of us like to travel, and how we have a pretty solid economy to go with our lousy winters (THOSE they know about) and how that makes us want to pull up stakes around about this time of year and head to the sunny south of Florida. Or to New York for shopping or San Francisco for food and wine-tasting or to Hawaii for great beaches and culture.
More American states and cities need to understand that. Maybe Sires’ legislation will help spark something, but I get the feeling it’s going to die a slow death in the U.S. Congress, which can’t seem to agree on much of anything these days.