The North Country Chamber of Commerce has tracked and analyzed border crossing numbers at Champlain/Lacolle for 2014, 2015 and the first few months of 2016, and we can see good news in commercial traffic trends and better news than many may expect regarding car traffic and visitation by Canadians to our area.
With the exchange rate at 25-30% and having approached 40% in the past year, it is common to hear perceptions that our Canadian friends aren’t coming anymore as a result, but that really isn’t so.
Looking at U.S. Customs and Border Protection car counts at Champlain for 2014, 2015 and 2016, we saw a drop of 10% in car traffic for 2015 compared to 2014, with an actual 10% increase in January 2016 compared to a year earlier. Statistics from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) are even more informative as they specifically count returning Canadians at Lacolle. They show day trips down just 13% in 2015 compared to 2014, and then up an amazing 22% in January of this year. One night visits in 2015 were down 8% and two or more night visits were down 12%.
Very importantly, these numbers document that 85% to 90% of visitation continues, in spite of the unfavorable exchange rate. We see this as a testament to the uniquely strong and multi-faceted connections we have developed through the years between the Montreal and greater Plattsburgh regions. This constant relationship building, coupled with continuing enhancements to our attractiveness to visitors, is serving us well and providing a clear cushion during periods of bad exchange rates.
Particularly as we approach the summer, it is crucial for our area to realize that our Canadian neighbors remain our number one economic support and are very much still coming in large numbers, requiring due attention to customer service and justifying a continued marketing focus to the north.
On the commercial front, the numbers at Champlain/Lacolle show a strong increase in truck and commercial traffic of 6% in 2015 com- pared to 2014, and a stronger trend of 10% growth over 2015 for January and February of this year. This trend bodes well for our customs brokers and others who service cross border trade in the North Country, and for economic development generally as it strengthens our special role as a truly unique hub for Canadian based economic activity in the U.S. In fact, we and our economic development partners haven’t been as busy in years as we are right now in terms of interaction with Quebec businesses interested in U.S. growth.
Bienvenue a la banlieue americaine de Montreal!
Onward and Upward!