updated 7/24/2009 10:42:44 AM ET 2009-07-24T14:42:44

The number of U.S. tourists visiting Canada is at a 37-year low and declining, mainly due to the recession, but stricter new U.S. passport rules are also to blame, the head of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada said Thursday.

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"We're at the lowest level since 1972," association president Randy Williams said. "American traffic has been an issue for seven or eight years, constantly dwindling."

The number of overnight trips by Americans to Canada has declined from 16.168 million in 2002 to 13.371 million in 2007, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada.

The drop in visitors is primarily a result of the recession-plagued economy, but Williams also said that new U.S. passport rules have not helped.

Since June 1, people traveling across the borders have been required since to show a passport or other acceptable form of identification such as an enhanced driver's license or NEXIS card.

Before the new rules, only government-issued ID was needed for travel between Canada and the U.S. Passport rules

David Tetrault has noticed a 50 percent drop in business at his bed and breakfast in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He said the biggest impact of the new passport rules is in last-minute travel because the planning and time to get a passport has eliminated spontaneity.

Although U.S. border guards have been lenient so far with travelers who do not have their passports, Joanne Ferreira of the United States Customs and Border Patrol said compliance has been very high.

"Travelers are showing up with their approved documents and those that do not have their approved documents, we're still in that flexible period of time, and we're not denying entry as long as they are admissible and we can confirm their identity and citizenship," she said from Washington, D.C.

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