The ArriveCAN app may be here to stay. But could that kill business in Windsor?

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Fewer tourists, less sales and more inconvenience – that’s what a group of local businesses fear will be the consequence of keeping the ArriveCAN app going after the pandemic ends.

Concerns are being raised as the federal government continues to explore the potential for the app to be used post-pandemic to help speed up border controls.

“We will never move forward unless this app is completely phased out,” said Lyz Meloche, general manager of Windsor Detroit Tunnel duty-free shop.

She said business was down 40-60% from pre-pandemic levels, pointing to the app as a barrier to recovery.

“[American tourists are] just avoiding coming. They stay in their own backyard instead of crossing over here and spending their money with border businesses,” Meloche said.

Meanwhile, Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia, said bringing the customs process online was unnecessary.

“They’re not going to go through this whole process just to take a trip to Canada,” he said, referring to the many American tourists who liked to take day tours before the pandemic hit.

Bradley said the federal government is ignoring his concerns.

“We are the ones on the front lines. We understand that this app is not working very well.”

“We need more people…not apps”

Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said the app will need to be tweaked to be more user-friendly, especially if there are plans to use it longer term.

“When you look at the way travel is processed around the world, it’s increasingly being digitized… We just want to make sure that the tool being used is the right one…so it’s a seamless experience for the traveler.”

But store owners like Renaldo Agostino of the Turbo Espresso Bar want the ArriveCAN app removed altogether.

Agostino said he fears the government is simply looking to replace border agents with an app.

“I fear this is a government decision to reduce [customs] jobs at the border… It seems these days the wait to cross the border is longer and that’s with fewer cars crossing,” he said. “We need more people. No more apps.”

He said tourists planning to spend a few days on the Canadian side of the border are unlikely to feel the impact – but there are plenty of others who will.

“What Windsor used to have was the day traveler. The person who sits in Detroit… Or the group of friends who sit around a barbecue and say ‘hey, let’s go to Windsor,'” he said.

“We are making it increasingly difficult for these day travelers to arrive and that is bad for Windsor.”


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