‘Absolutely devastating’: Struggling duty-free stores call for end to ArriveCan app

Duty-free shops along Canada’s border, like the one in Emerson, are continuing to report record low sales.

Driving home to Colorado from his trip to Canada, Jim Payson decided to stop at the Emerson Duty Free Shop to buy some gifts and a bottle of Crown Royal.

“This was the first time since COVID that we’ve been across, so it’s been probably four years ago last time I came across,” said Payson.

Michael Resch, the owner of the Emerson Duty Free Shop, said business has been the worst in the decades he’s been open.

“The last couple of years have been absolutely devastating with COVID and the border closed, so we had almost no business at all,” he said.

While the border has since reopened, tourism hasn’t returned to normal.

Resch said on a pre-COVID Sunday in summer, his parking lot would be nearly full — a very different situation than right now.

“Well, you can see there’s the odd car coming in. Most of them are American travellers. There’s very little Canadians going out.”

Resch said his sales are only a quarter of what a normal summer should be.

The Frontier Duty Free Association (FDFA) says duty-free shops across the country are hurting.

In a recent report, its 17 members reported a 44.82 per cent decrease in sales in July compared to July 2019. A concerning number as July is the prime month for sales.

The report also found peak holidays like Independence Day and the August long weekend were down about the same.

The association believes government hurdles like the ArriveCan app and vaccination requirements stop more tourists from crossing the border.

“It’s only hurting tourism business, more over hurting border towns and border community businesses, so it’s doing more harm than good,” said Barbara Barrett, executive director of the FDFA.

The FDFA is now calling on the feds to scrap the app, hoping it will encourage people to travel.

“It’s important not only for myself,” said Resch, “It’s important for the employees. It’s important for the economy.”

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