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Canadian tourists could shun U.S. – and that would hurt Buffalo Niagara

WASHINGTON – Oh, Canada, please don't shun us because of the tariffs.

That's the sentiment of local tourism officials after a poll found a majority of Canadians want to do just that.

Some 57 percent of Canadians polled recently on behalf of the Toronto Globe and Mail and CTV said they were likely to curtail their visits to the U.S. because of the trade war. Another 16 percent said they were somewhat likely to visit the U.S. less often.

That's likely to have a significant impact on the Buffalo-area tourist trade, given that about 40 percent of Buffalo area's tourists come from Canada.

"I think it's very concerning," said Patrick Kaler, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara. "We've already heard from a couple of people from Canada who said: 'We're not coming to the U.S. We're not coming to Buffalo'."

Day trippers and shoppers account for an important share of the tourism business locally. And the poll, conducted by the Nanos polling firm, includes another indication that the Buffalo region will be seeing fewer of those sorts of visitors.

Some 43 percent of those surveyed said they were likely to stop shopping at U.S. retailers because of the trade war, and another 25 percent said they were somewhat likely to do so.

And it's all happening because Canadians are worried that their nation will lose the trade war that President Trump initiated with tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

"When asked if they were concerned about Trump’s claim that the trade dispute will cost Canadians a lot of money, over seven in ten Canadians say that they are concerned or somewhat concerned about Trump’s claim," pollsters said in their report. "Just over one in four say they are somewhat not concerned or not concerned about it."

Countering the bad news from north of the border is a recent tourism upswing that made 2017 one of Buffalo strongest years for tourism.

In addition, Kaler said his group hosted several Canadian travel journalists shortly after the recent dust-up between Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and they indicated that the controversy wouldn't stop them from writing about the Buffalo area.

"What we're stressing is that what they're hearing out of the U.S. is not necessarily the sentiment across the U.S.," Kaler said. "Buffalo is always going to be the City of Good Neighbors."

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