Fresh statistics from the U.S and Canadian governments show cross-border traffic between British Columbia and the American Northwest surged in the first quarter of 2013. Canadian visitors account for nearly all of the increase, despite a mild slowdown in economic growth there.
The stats show vehicle traffic across the northern border rose nearly 10 percent in the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period last year. We asked for figures covering Washington, Idaho and British Columbia land crossings. The more detailed Statistics Canada dataset shows crossings by U.S. vehicles held more or less steady. It's Canadians who are crossing over more often.
The director of the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University, Hart Hodges, says cheaper prices in the U.S. for clothes, dairy products, gasoline and airfares are a big lure.
"It's a little bit surprising that we have seen so much of an increase given that the Canadian economy is slowing. But it's slowing from the Canadian dollar being above par back to roughly par or 95 cents U.S. That's still very, very strong."
Hodges called out burgeoning Bellingham International Airport as another factor to explain the uptick in cross border traffic. In March, the airport set a new passenger record, driven by new flights which cater to Canadian bargain seekers. Residents of southwest British Columbia have long complained about high airfares at Vancouver International Airport. Bellingham's airport is roughly 20 miles south of the border.
Hodges senses that travelers -- including day trippers -- are getting accustomed to the tougher border security and passport requirements. But he notes the cross border traffic remains way below the high volumes seen in the decade before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
On the Web:
US-Canada border crossing statistics - Statistics Canada
Canada to US (Southbound) border wait time - US Customs and Border Protection
US to Canada (Northbound) border wait time - Washington Dept. of Transportation
Know Before You Go - U.S. Customs and Border Protection