A River between us and the largest population in Canada

Sarah O’Connell

By Sarah O’Connell

Every spring, the Ottawa Travel and Vacation Show attracts over 17,000 people to explore destinations; St. Lawrence County was among them. Caribbean, African, Canadian, U.S. and East Asian destinations handed out brochures, provided tastings and talked with people, spreading awareness, ensuring their destination was top of mind in the traveler’s decision-making process.

    The St. Lawrence County booth included a display on the expanded Ogdensburg International Airport, which caught the eye of many. They were very interested in the low-cost direct flights, the opportunity to clear customs at the border and fly a domestic flight to their final US destination.  For many of them, Ogdensburg is closer than Ottawa, so price and convenience are selling points.  They were interested in the opportunity to spend the night before they flew, to take advantage of park- and-ride opportunities, have a nice meal and then do their shopping on their return drive.  Likewise, they were excited to hear that you can now get to Baltimore from the Massena Airport.

    It was interesting to talk to Canadians about what brings them over the border, what discourages them, and what excites them. Like many of us, Canadians are very sensitive about their dollars. Given the current value of their dollar, they still expressed their continued visits to shop for groceries, gas up their vehicles, and take advantage of discounted retail shopping and shipping! Not everything is cheaper, but some things still are.  The year-round Vermont ski area exhibiting next to us had a sign that read ‘Canadian at Par’. I asked them how maintaining that promise has impacted their business. He said that Canadian customers are too important to their company, they need to continue that loyalty and offering that commitment is the best marketing message they can send.

    Some expressed concern over discrimination at the border, while others mentioned ease. People were especially excited about golfing here, the price and ability to get tee times.  Nearly every rack card promoting cycling was taken. The wide shoulders, minimal traffic and beautiful scenery is desirable to them.  They were interested in the diversity and affordability of live entertainment offered through Ogdensburg Command Performance, the Orchestra of Northern New York, Community Performance Series at SUNY Potsdam and all of the festivals going on. They expressed that the closeness made it possible to take a drive to explore new places.  Several families were thrilled by the idea of a short drive with the kids to get away, and feel like they are ‘in a different country’. Robert Moses State Park in Massena  with the soon-to- be- open Nature Center, the Eisenhower Locks, Hawkins Point Visitors Center, campgrounds and cabins, trails and safe cycling all sounded idyllic as a summer escape from the city.

    Approximately 40 percent of Canada’s population lives within 200 miles of our border. In St. Lawrence County, we have two international bridges (Prescott-Ogdensburg and Cornwall-Massena).  What an opportunity?