Nineteen months after closing the United States border for health concerns during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, land border crossings between Arizona and Sonora are again open to tourists. As of November 8, the border is open to those who have received the Covid-19 vaccine.
The reopening comes just in time for the peak holiday shopping season. Nogales, Ariz. Mayor Arturo Garino and city officials are maintaining hope that there will be a surge in tourist numbers to counteract the economic hardships that border towns faced during the pandemic.
“We have worked very hard to make sure that we have done our part to have that port open. With the help of our health department, the city and the county, we will hopefully be successful with this and end this year on a good note,” Garino said of the reopening.
Arizona’s Santa Cruz County depends heavily on cross-border traffic. Visitors who come through the Mexican border contribute between 60% to 70% of the sales tax revenue in the Arizona border communities.
With things starting to make a return to normal there is hope that the economy will return to pre-pandemic levels.
During the holiday season Nogales, Ariz. typically receives anywhere from 85,000 to 100,000 shoppers who are coming across the Mexican border. Crossings last year decreased significantly, hurting the businesses that depend on this traffic.
In a video produced by the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce touting the border’s reopening, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manuel Ruiz said Nogales and the county are looking forward to seeing friends and family from Sonora.
“I have a lot of friends and family in Nogales, Sonora,” Ruiz said. “It’s going to be great to see all of you back. We’re going to welcome you with open arms. The old adage is ‘mi casa es su casa.’ You’re welcome to come and shop. It helps everyone. It helps in our communities with the sales tax revenue and, more important, we can hire people back so that they can go back to work and have money for the holidays that are coming up.”
In the two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, approximately 20 businesses in Nogales alone have had to close due to the pandemic-induced economic hardship.