From time to time, it is useful to review cross-border travel statistics in northwestern Ontario at the two main border crossings with the United States – Rainy River and Pigeon River. These travel statistics are a nice indicator of the local state of tourism as well as economic activity. Figure 1 presents monthly vehicles entering Canada at Pigeon River from 1990 to 2017 while Figure 2 does the same for Rainy River (Data Source: Statistics Canada). Canadian and American vehicles are separated and a polynomial smooth is fitted to each series in an effort to summarize trends over time.
At Rainy River, Canadian vehicles entering have been in long-term decline while the US numbers have remained approximately the same despite some ebbs and flows. Of note is the bit of a dip the Canadian vehicles at Rainy River numbers have taken since 2014 coupled with the uptick in the US numbers over the same period – no doubt a reflection of the depreciation of the Canadian dollar in recent years. The downturn in Canadian vehicles coming back is even more pronounced at Pigeon River where there is a sharper drop since 2014 while the US numbers have nevertheless registered a small upswing. However, the overall period from 1990 to 2014 was one of general increase in Canadian vehicles coming back.
In 2014, total Canadian vehicles entering Canada at Rainy River was 147,137 while at Pigeon River it was 230,179 compared to 135,149 and 170,904 respectively in 2017. From 2014 to 2017, total Canadian vehicles entering Canada at Rainy River fell 8.1 percent while at Pigeon River the drop was 25.8 percent. Over the same period, US vehicles entering at Rainy River went from 28,686 to 35,272 – an increase of 23 percent – while at Pigeon River they went from 41,376 to 45,510 – an increase of 10 percent.