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Cross-border shopping could affect tourism.

Cross-border shopping could affect tourism

Crossing the border to save a buck has become a preoccupation for many Canadians, leaving some observers of the tourist trade to wonder what message it is conveying to our American neighbors who may be considering a visit to Canada.

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Joe Fratesi, a member of the five-mayor task force on cross-border shopping, thinks the message is clear.

"If people are leaving Canada to buy things, Americans will be asking themselves, "Why go to Canada if it's so expensive there?'"

In addition, Americans who live in the northern border states, Northern Ontario's largest source of tourists, are being discouraged by growing line-ups at border crossings.

The Canadian Sault, which is larger than its American counterpart, has traditionally attracted many Sault, Michigan residents into Canada for a greater choice in shopping or for a night out.

However, Fratesi says the reduction in that traffic has been noticeable, and he attributes it to the combined effects of high costs and the fear of long waits.

Thunder Bay Mayor Jack Masters, who is also a committee member, agrees.

"Many Americans have been exposed to the cross-border shopping issue in the media, and they are pre-conditioned to think everything is more expensive when they come into Canada," he says.

The cost of gasoline is one of the greatest deterrents, he says, as is the GST, which has Americans very confused and adds to the general impression of high costs.

Deborah Krupa, a public relations and marketing consultant in Thunder Bay and chairman of the local chamber of commerce's tourism committee, agrees that Americans are very aware of higher Canadian prices, but she says our neighbors to the south don't come to Canada to shop.

According to the chamber's figures, tourism in Thunder Bay is better than predicted for this summer.

"We focus on attracting them (Americans) for other reasons, and once they are here we help counteract higher prices by providing local shops with tax rebate forms, so Americans can get refunds on exported goods."

John Winter, a Toronto consultant, says preliminary figures show summer tourism is down in Ontario, but he points out that it is difficult to separate the effects of the recession from the possible impact of cross-border shopping.

Nevertheless, Winter says it can't help Ontario's struggling tourism sector for Americans to see thousands of Canadians lined up to get out of their own country or returning with their cars packed with purchases from the U.S.

Masters takes a long-term view of the problem and predicts that what has begun as a border problem is rapidly becoming an Ontario and Canadian problem that will increase with the increased volume of north-south trade.
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Title Annotation:Canadians shopping in the U.S. paint a negative picture to Americans
Author:Dunning, Paula
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Mayors disappointed by failure to have gas taxes cut.
Next Article:Conventions, business travel generate substantial revenue.

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