PEMBINA, N.D. – Compared to last year, the number of people crossing the Canadian border at the Pembina port of entry took its hardest hit in August, according to a recent report.
The number of people who crossed the border in at Pembina is down 31.05 percent from August 2014, according to the report from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In August, 35,755 people in vehicles crossed the border. Last year at that time, 51,855 people crossed the border.
That was the highest drop in crossings when comparing last year's monthly numbers. The next highest decrease was in April at 17.82 percent. All months except for June, with a 6.14 percent increase, saw a decrease compared to last year.
The number of people crossing the border in August with trucks was down 3.22 percent from August 2014, but buses were up 2.78 percent.
Fewer Canadians coming through Pembina to Grand Forks has had an impact on local tourism and the retail industry.
"Surveys we have done show that Canadian visitors are coming to Grand Forks to shop and for weekend getaways, so the retail, dining and lodging industries will feel the impact," said Julie Rygg, executive director of the Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Canadians spend hundreds of dollars during each trip to Grand Forks, Rygg said.
One reason for fewer people coming through Pembina is the value of the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar, said Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce. As of Friday, one Canadian dollar was worth 77 U.S. cents, according to Bank of Canada, and Wilfahrt said that's lower than what Grand Forks businesses want.
"The Canadian dollar is one of those things that's out of our control," Wilfahrt said. "We hope it will get back up to 80 to 85 cents soon."
Since the beginning of 2015, the average value of one Canadian dollar was 79 U.S. cents, according to Bank of Canada. The highest value so far this year was 85 cents on Jan. 2, and the lowest was 74 cents on Sept. 29.
When asked whether the conversion rate and the decreased number of people crossing the border at Pembina had an impact on businesses, Wilfahrt said, "Absolutely."
He said hotels and restaurants "have been feeling it for a few months," and once the holiday seasons arrives, retailers will also take notice.
"This isn't the first time it's been down, and we've weathered that before," he said.
January: down 3.38 percent
February: down 12.72 percent
March: down 7.74 percent
April: down 17.82 percent
May: down 14.19 percent
June: up 6.14 percent
July: down 5.69 percent
August: down 31.05 percent
Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection.