In Canada, Americans Are Missed, With Limits

Before the pandemic, so many American gastronomy pilgrims from New York, Boston and Los Angeles came each week to Joe Beef that many local residents, facing a 10-week waiting list, all but gave up trying. The Americans, Mr. McMillan recalled wistfully, thought nothing of buying expensive bottles of Champagne and sucking down oysters until midnight, before purchasing his prophetic-sounding cookbook “Surviving the Apocalypse.”

“Ah, how I miss the Americans,” said Mr. McMillan, who presides over a mini-empire of four restaurants in the city, including Liverpool House, where Justin Trudeau once bromanced President Obama. American tourists, he added, accounted for half of Joe Beef’s pre-pandemic weekly revenue of about $118,000, or about 150,000 Canadian dollars. “When the Americans were here every night it felt like we were putting on a Broadway show.”

David McMillan is the co-owner of Montreal’s Joe Beef, a restaurant which attracted American gastronomy pilgrims before the pandemic.
David McMillan is the co-owner of Montreal’s Joe Beef, a restaurant which attracted American gastronomy pilgrims before the pandemic.Credit…David Giral for The New York Times

“Now, I look every day at how the U.S. vaccination is going,” he added. “And I get messages every day from American clients asking when they can get back in.”

It’s a question many in the Canadian tourism industry have also been asking, ever since the Canada-U. S. border was closed to nonessential travelers in March. The loss of American visitors, armed with their strong dollars and consuming zeal, has buffeted popular destinations like Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver, already reeling from a debilitating pandemic. Canadian airlines have been forced to make thousands of layoffs.

More than two thirds of the 21 million international tourists who came to Canada in 2019 were from the United States, according to government data, with Americans pumping about $8.7 billion into the economy. That’s compared to the nearly $1.3 billion spent by Chinese visitors, about $1 billion by Britons and about $735 million by the French.

The absence of American tourists feels acute in many quarters of Canada. Above, a deserted stretch of Rue Notre Dame West in Montreal.
The absence of American tourists feels acute in many quarters of Canada. Above, a deserted stretch of Rue Notre Dame West in Montreal.Credit…David Giral for The New York Times

Canadians have long had a love-hate relationship with their larger, showier neighbor south of the border. That ambivalence was magnified during the Trump administration, when the mercurial American president slapped punishing tariffs on the country, suggested Canada had burned down the White House during the War of 1812 (the country didn’t then exist) and called its prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “very dishonest” and “weak.”

But it has always been more love than hate when it comes to travel between the two countries, with Americans drawn by Canada’s proximity, its common language in most regions and its mix of cosmopolitan cities and natural landscapes.

The inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who spent her disco-dancing teenage years in Montreal, has renewed the ardor between the two allies, while vaccination has created cautious optimism about taming the pandemic.

Article Source: NY Times