Scary numbers

Mill closures and shutdowns, the never-ending softwood lumber dispute between Ottawa and Washington, and the recent U.S. ban on imports of most live Canadian cattle have dominated the headlines of late.
But getting lost in the glare—at least on the national and provincial scene—are the woes facing another industry vital to the economic prosperity of Northwestern Ontario: tourism.
The numbers are scary. Just today, there’s word that U.S. visitors to our region is down more than 30 percent since 2001. Yesterday, Statistics Canada reported the number of same-day car trips by Americans to our country in July fell seven percent from June to 1.2 million—the lowest monthly total ever recorded.
Then there was a report by the Canadian Tourism Commission earlier this summer which predicted the number of Americans coming to Canada will drop by 7.7 million, resulting in a loss of $1.7 billion nationally, once the requirement to have a passport to get into the U.S. (including Americans themselves) takes effect in January, 2008.
Local tourist operators certainly have been complaining about the obstacles they’re facing for some time now, from troubles at the border for some of their guests to Canada’s gun laws. The skyrocketing cost of gasoline and surging loonie undoubtedly have had an impact, too.
Toss in the new U.S. passport requirement and the future is even gloomier.
It needn’t be—if solutions are devised now to revitalize the industry, not after area tourist camps start closing their doors en masse.