International Falls prepares to welcome back Canadian travelers ahead of border reopening

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The U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rules announced Wednesday will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November.

"We’re really excited, really excited to have them over," said Alison Stewart, owner of the Hideaway, an International Falls women and childrens clothing boutique. "For my business it means that there’s going to be a lot more joy."

Stewart estimates about 30% of her business comes from Canadians that come to shop from the Ft. Francis, Ontario, area, but did see growth from U.S. shoppers this summer in their absence.

International Falls saw more Americans pass through as they were allowed to go to Canada in August for nonessential travel.

"That’s a game-changer for the northland and all the way over to the Moorhead area,” said U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who worked with Canadian officials to try and get the borders open. “It’s been really tough to have that border closed down. This is a game-changer. I think it should have happened a while ago.”

Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.

“There have been a lot of factors of daily life that have been impacted with the border closure," said Tricia Heibel, president of the International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

Heibel is curious to see the pace at which Canadian shoppers and travelers return to International Falls after being gone 19 months.

No COVID-19 test will be required for vaccinated travelers to cross the border, which the Chamber of Commerce president felt would make the process more convenient for folks to cross.

Back at the Hideway, business owner Stewart hopes to see familiar faces from over the border return.

"It’s going to be like old home week. We can’t wait for them to walk through the door … there’s going to be a lot of hugging," Stewart said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.