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End of COVID-19 border rules ‘too little, too late’ for southern Alberta tourist season: motel owner

The federal government is lifting COVID-19 border rules for foreign travellers next month, including the requirement to use the ArriveCAN app, health checks and showing proof of vaccination.

But Laura Michaelis said the adjustment is too late for her business in Milk River, Alta.

“That should have happened a long time ago,” the motel owner said. “We’ll take it, obviously, but it should have happened before the season.”

Michaelis saw traffic increase this summer as restrictions eased, but she says it still wasn’t at pre-pandemic volumes.

She believes the border rules were part of the reason for that.

“We haven’t seen the foreign tourists that we used to see before the pandemic started,” Michaelis said. “It’s a lot of local tourists.

“This year, anybody who is fully-vaccinated has been able to come and we’ve seen a little bit there.”

Larry Liebelt, the mayor of Milk River, said he expects any impact from the changes won’t be felt until next summer.

“All the campgrounds are closing,” he said.

“It’s really too little, too late. The snow’s coming.”

While Milk River’s tourist season is ending, the Canada Border Services Agency is anticipating an influx of vehicles at ports of entry this fall.

“We expect traveller volumes to move quickly to what we had pre-COVID, and we’re taking the necessary steps to manage that extra traffic at our land border crossings and at our airports,” said Lisa White, port director at the Calgary International Airport.

At this time, those steps do not include returning border crossings operating at reduced service hours, like Carway and Del Bonita, back to pre-pandemic hours.

“We’re looking at our operations across the board to see where we can make adjustments as those volumes will presumably increase,” White said.

“We’ll make those adjustments accordingly.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, all non-American travellers entering the United States by land are still required to show proof of vaccination on arrival.

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