Easier border crossing expected to help business this summer 

Crossing the U.S. Canadian border should be faster and less hassle this summer with the introduction of the Nexus program just agreed to by both governments.

Nexus makes use of photo-ID cards and computer reading of licence plates and will be used by both Canada and U.S. Customs.

The program, which takes its name from the Latin term for bridge, is currently in effect between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan.

But now it is being extended to the Douglas and Pacific Highway crossings with Blaine, Washington and the Boundary Bay, B.C. crossing with Point Roberts Washington.

It’s good news for the more than 66,000 PACE members in B.C. who have had to endure long border line-ups ever since the program was suspended following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Travellers on both sides of the border will soon be able to fill out the paperwork for the program. Once in place Nexus will allow participants to cross in dedicated lines.

The program is good news for Tourism Whistler.

"We are thrilled in fact that the importance of cross-border traffic and tourism in British Columbia will benefit from Nexus being instituted," said Barrett Fisher, vice-president strategy and business development for Tourism Whistler.

"How this works for us is that it gives us the opportunity to work with key meeting planner groups where we can have them pre-register their entire group before arriving.

"It also gives us the opportunity to communicate with consumers, like those in the Seattle area, to let them know that this program is up and running and if they pre-register it will ease their future travel.

"So we will absolutely be using this as a tool to assist our clients and customers to improve their cross-border travel to ensure they keep Whistler on their list as an important destination for travel."

The most recent Tourism Whistler statistics show a big increase in visitors from Washington Sate this winter, up 37 per cent over the same time last year.

It can be attributed to aggressive marketing by Tourism Whistler in Washington State and to people’s desire to stay close to home for their holidays for economic and security reasons.

Concerns over money and security, along with a slow start to the season in their Eastern resorts, have also affected Intrawest’s visitor numbers.

"The impact of Sept. 11 hasn’t been what people expected it to be," said Intrawest spokesman Stephen Forgacs.

"What’s likely had a greater impact on skier visit numbers across our resorts would be the slow start in Eastern resorts due to late openings."

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