Hampton, York and Ogunquit beaches welcome Canadians back after COVID

New Hampshire and Maine vacation towns are eagerly awaiting the return of Canadian tourists this summer now that travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have been eased.

The United States reopened its land border to fully vaccinated international travelers in November, after two summers in which Canadian tourists were unable to visit beaches such as Hampton, York and Ogunquit. Canadians have always vacationed in New Hampshire and Maine, which offer some of the closest beaches to provinces like Quebec.

Last July, Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce President John Nyhan said a survey of Hampton Beach businesses showed that 20% of revenue had been lost to the community due to restrictions. to Canadian visitors.

The Maine Tourism Board found that Canadian visitors spent nearly $1.2 billion in Maine in 2019. They spent $329 million in Maine stores, according to the agency, or nearly $1.2 billion. one-fifth of all tourism-related retail spending in the state.

“We miss our Canadian friends,” said Laurence Plotkin, owner of Trellis House and Blue Shutters Inn in Ogunquit Beach. He said Canadians can make up to 15% of their revenue each season, though he noted that depends on the exchange rate.

Rising costs, exchange rate still a barrier for Canadian visitors

Today’s exchange rate isn’t ideal for Canadians, Plotkin said, because their dollar was worth just 77 cents in US dollars on Monday.

He said challenges also remain for Canadian tourists due to rising costs in the United States. Gasoline continues to be expensive, with the national average being $4.98 a gallon, and Plotkin said that could make it harder for Canadians to travel to Maine. He said rising costs in the hospitality industry, such as labor, utilities and food, could also be prohibitively expensive for Canadians.

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“Canadians are looking for values ​​when it comes to hospitality,” Plotkin said. “It’s going to take time to remove these obstacles.”

Plotkin said Canadian tourists remain determined to return to their favorite American beaches. He said when the coronavirus pandemic ended travel between the two countries, many Canadians told him to save their deposits for their next visit.

“I think Canadian travelers are very loyal,” Plotkin said.

CAT returns to Bar Harbor

Holly Roberts, executive director of the York Region Chamber of Commerce, said York has already seen visitors from Nova Scotia and Quebec this season. She said the return of the CAT ferry service from Nova Scotia to Bar Harbor, Maine, this year is adding to the buzz for travel to Canada.

Visitors to Hampton Beach from Canada account for about 20% of revenue, according to a chamber of commerce chief.

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The CAT, which also carries travelers with vehicles, cut its connection to Bar Harbor in 2009. It briefly started ferrying tourists from Canada to Portland, Maine, until it was cut again in 2018. The coronavirus pandemic extended the hiatus further, but CAT announced in the spring that it was re-establishing the connection.

“We know they can’t wait to come back,” Roberts said of the Canadian tourists. “It’s impossible to predict the turnout, however, we are all anticipating a very busy season.”

Hampton Beach ‘can’t wait’ for Canadiens return

In Hampton Beach, where the Canadian flag flies on a pole in front of the Seashell Stage, Pelham Resort owner Chuck Rage also said businesses are eagerly awaiting the return of Canadians. The largest number of Canadian tourists often occurs during Construction Holiday, a two-week vacation period celebrated in Quebec that begins on the last Sunday of July.

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Rage said he lost several bookings in 2020 to Canadians who had reservations but were suddenly banned from travel. Like Plotkin in Ogunquit, many told him to save their deposits for their next chance to visit Hampton Beach.

“They love the beaches here,” Rage said.

Chuck Rage, owner of Pelham Resort and District Commissioner of Hampton Beach Village, explains the importance of Canadian tourism dollars.

Jimmy Trainor, owner of the Boardwalk Café in Hampton Beach, said Canadians tend to be good at restaurants because they often stay a week or more and spend more on restaurants than day trippers. Rage, which also owns a Rexall Drug store, said they tend to buy a lot of souvenirs when they visit.

Tom McGuirk, owner of McGuirk’s Ocean View in Hampton Beach, said the Canadians will serve as a notable bump for beach businesses this summer. He said with rising costs facing restaurant owners, Canadians are a welcome additional source of revenue.

“They’re coming in droves,” McGuirk said. “It’s going to make a huge difference to the economy here.”

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