Of course that gets the both the progressives and the righties panties in a knot but, seriously, why should one need a passport to go from North Dakota to Winnipeg when seeking kulture? Or from the Rainbow Mall in Niagara Falls, New York to Niagara Square when hunting for shoes? I don't need a passport to go from Ottawa to Gatineau and they are two different countries sorta kinda.
Anyhow, le cut, le paste:
Cross-border policies hit Folklorama tours
Winnipeg Free Press
Mon Aug 9 2010
Byline: Sandy Klowak and Mia Rabson
FEWER busloads of U.S. tourists are visiting Folklorama this year, and organizers are blaming costly passport fees for keeping Americans on their side of the border.
Only 11 bus loads of Americans are scheduled to attend Folklorama this year, down from 22 last year.
Fortunately, Folklorama-bound buses from other parts of Manitoba and Canada are more than making up for the U.S. decline. The total number of bus tours is only slightly lower than last year's record breaking numbers, down to 117 from 121, said Folklorama's executive director Ron Gauthier.
Gauthier blames the drop in U.S. traffic on hefty fees required to cross the border into Canada.
"The visa charge seems to be a bit of a stumbling block," Gauthier said. "It can be a deterrent to some people."
A Manitoba MP says dwindling tourism between the United States and Canada could be improved if the two countries made it cheaper to get a passport.
Elmwood-Transcona NDP MP Jim Maloway is introducing a resolution today at the Midwest State Legislators Conference in Toronto. It calls for provincial and state politicians to push Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama to cut passport fees to stimulate tourism.
He goes as far as to suggest they consider a limited-time two-for-one renewal of passports.
"If we want to promote passport use, the one way to get people hooked on it is to get them a good price," said Maloway.
It costs between $87 and $105 to get an adult Canadian passport and between $110 and $135 for an adult U.S. passport. However, Canadian passports are only valid for five years while U.S. adult passports are valid for 10 years.
In Canada, children under 15 pay between $20 and $39 and U.S. children pay $105. Passports for children under 16 in both countries are valid for only five years, except passports for Canadian children under three years old, which are valid for three years.
The Canadian government reports slightly more than half of Canadians have a passport. Estimates suggest in the U.S. the number is somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent.
Statistics Canada shows the number of U.S. tourists crossing the Canadian border fell 15 per cent between 2007 and 2009, to 11.5 million from 13.5 million. Maloway said hunting and fishing lodges, which rely heavily on U.S. customers, have reported bookings down as much as 30 per cent.
Maloway said the recession is partly to blame, but new U.S. border passport requirements are also at fault.
The U.S. began requiring passports for entry by air in January 2007 and for entry by land in June 2009. In July 2008, the U.S. began issuing cheaper passport cards that Americans can use to re-enter the U.S. by land or sea. The cards cost between $30 and $55 and were designed with border communities in mind.
Sensing a decline in cross-boarder tourism, Folklorama took matters into its own hands four years ago. It started offering its own VIP World Tour bus tour four years ago to entice Americans to come up and enjoy the festivities. For about $70, the tour takes participants to three pavilions, allowing them to skip lines and sample tasty ethnic treats. The tour has been popular, but not with the crowd Folklorama was expecting.
The VIP tour was targeted to foreign independent travellers, but the local market has really responded, Gauthier said. Roughly 60 per cent of VIP tour groups are made up of Winnipeggers, and about 20 per cent are rural Manitobans.
Gauthier said the key to the tour's success is its ability to be custom- designed for the particular group.
"You've got to be creative" when marketing a festival, he said. "The more choices you give to people to attend your festival, the better success you'll have."
Either way, Gauthier's not too worried about attendance levels -- Folklorama is always sure to draw a healthy crowd.
He said the festival is largest, longest-running multicultural festival of its kind in the world.
"Folklorama definitely is unique. There aren't a lot of festivals like ours."
Imagine no borders.