Montreal tourist industry pins hopes to return of global travellers on Sept. 7

The tourists have been coming back… but very slowly, say Montreal businesses. They say the border reopening planned for Tuesday is deeply needed.

As of Sept. 7, all international travellers, and not just Americans, will be able to visit Canada if they are fully vaccinated.

Local merchants say the difference should be noticeable immediately, business-wise. That’s because non-American tourists have a different approach.

“Usually American visitors come for two to three days per stay, and tourists from France usually stay 11 days,” said Francis Bouchard of Tourisme Montreal.

So far in summer 2021, news has been good for the industry, said Bouchard -- it’s just been a slow and steady process after last year’s economic bottoming-out.

“We've doubled or tripled the amount of visitors we've had in the [tourist] attractions,” he said.

Of Tuesday’s new rules, he said, “we think international visitors will have an important impact on the numbers here.”

This year’s tourism numbers may be up from last year, but it’s still nowhere near the record numbers of 2019, when 11 million people visited Montreal.

Some tourists who have ventured back out—all Canadian and American—told CTV that it felt relatively safe, compared to before, and was also one of the only options, considering various tight international restrictions.

“We think it's safer to travel now and we took all the right precautions and came to see my parents,” explained one tourist from Vancouver who was visiting the Old Port.

“For sure we are scared to come back with something, but it’s beautiful here,” said another family, from Hamilton, Ont. “It's a getaway and such a nice city to go to.”

Montreal’s one of the safer options in North America, say experts, with one of the highest vaccination rates in the continent.

Coupled with its vaccination passport, that might make the city more attractive to some international visitors than Manhattan, Bouchard said.

With festivals lined up for fall, the next few months are looking like an especially strong prospect.

A health expert said the risks are also fairly low for Montrealers, considering the vaccination requirement. Going back to work and back to school are more likely to drive case numbers up than tourism, said Dr. Don Sheppard.

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