Holiday shopping brings Canadians to Minot

Cross-border visitors holiday shop in Minot

A brief respite from COVID-19 restrictions enabled Canadian visitors to take advantage of Minot’s holiday shopping as 2021 drew to a close.

The opening of the Canadian border in November resulted in a spike of traffic to Minot, said Stephanie Schoenrock, executive director at Visit Minot.

“It was a refreshing sight to see,” she said.

With the initial opening of the border, the Canadian government still required its residents to obtain PCR COVID-19 testing to return. The testing requirement eventually was dropped for trips to the United States of less than 72 hours, but it was reinstated Dec. 31 due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. The increase in cases in Canada recently led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend no travel to Canada.

Schoenrock said Visit Minot respects Canadians’ concerns as they become more cautious about traveling. However, the dip in numbers that has occurred is not unusual post-holiday, she said. Extreme cold weather also can influence travel.

“Canadians right now are kind of locking down a little bit,” Schoenrock said. “We definitely appreciated those numbers at the end of November, beginning of December. It was nice to have some Canadians back.”

Their return was noticeable at stores in Dakota Square Mall.

“There was a great deal of pent-up demand for cross-border shopping in November and December,” mall officials stated. “Numerous Canadian residents remarked about how great it was to come back to Dakota Square and they quickly took advantage of the welcome-back promotion that we offered. Overall mall traffic was up nicely and our Canadian friends definitely helped contribute to that trend.”

Schoenrock said determining actual numbers of Canadian visitors is difficult, but Visit Minot uses several measurements to gauge traffic.

Visit Minot is able to obtain government data on the number of Canadian-licensed personal vehicles that come across the border into the United States. As of Nov. 1, Visit Minot has been able to gain information from GPS data, which counts the numbers of phone holders from Canada who have visited Minot.

Another way to detect Canadian interest is through response to outreach.

“We have a large database of emails from Canada, so we send e-newsletters to just Canadians. And then we also do social media campaigns and social posts in Canada as well, because we have a very good Canadian following,” Schoenrock said. The rate at which Canadians open those emails and look at those posts is good, she said.

Visit Minot also monitors its website traffic multiple times a week to see how often Canadians are checking in and the content they show interest in.

In the last quarter of 2021, the Visit Minot website received about 6,500 Canadian visits. The peak was about 900 a day, which has since fallen to an average of about 250 a day, Schoenrock said.

“In the tourism industry, visitation often times reflects traffic to the website because people are doing their research on websites and then are choosing to make a trip. We saw that traffic to Minot mimic the interest,” she said.

Website visits and actual visits don’t correlate exactly. For instance, Canadian website traffic was up 45% in the last quarter over the same quarter in 2019, but actual traffic was not up that same percentage. Monitoring website interest can foreshadow a change in trend, though, which is what Visit Minot saw over the holidays.

Historically, Minot sees its highest Canadian traffic in July through September, followed by a somewhat smaller boost in October through December, Schoenrock said.

Visit Minot encourages that traffic largely through its online presence. It also participated in trade shows in Regina, Saskatchewan, and Brandon, Manitoba, until two years ago, when COVID-19 led to their cancellations. It appears at least the Regina event will be back this year, Schoenrock said.

“Those trade shows have, historically, been high performing for Minot because it provides one-on-one conversation,” she said. “We enjoy being able to actually talk to Canadians one-on-one and hear where they’re at and what their travel plans are.

“That’s why we really want to go up to these trade shows,” she added. “We have to do all we can to present information to the Canadians that are interested in traveling, and so we are very hopeful that they have those trade shows and that we’re able to go, because I do believe that will make a difference for those summer traffic patterns.”


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