Canada’s tourism operators call for clarity on Canada-U.S. border reopening

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Tourism operators across the country are calling on the federal government to provide more clarity on when the Canada-U.S. land border will reopen, warning many businesses are at risk of closing.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) is launching a new campaign to get decision makers to “acknowledge the urgent need and to commit to a date to open the border,” as the summer quickly approaches.

Most non-essential travel across the land border has been restricted since March 2020, when measures were first brought in to slow the spread of COVID-19. The border restrictions have been extended on a monthly basis ever since.

“Medical experts are telling us that we are winning the battle with COVID,” Beth Potter, president and CEO of TIAC, said. “With vaccinations rising and case numbers going down, we must now pivot to more forward-thinking policies and talk about safely reopening the border, ending the extreme financial crush that has flattened the tourism industry and devastated the tourism economy in Canada.”

The TIAC says the Expert Advisory Panel on COVID-19 testing and screening “made a powerful case” to the federal government for changing the current travel policy, including scrapping the mandatory hotel quarantine.

Canada still requires travellers flying into the country stay at a government-approved hotel for up to three days as part of their 14-day quarantine. While there have been discussions about potentially easing travel restrictions, the federal government has not given any indication as to when they will be lifted.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged how eager Canadians are to travel once again. He said the government was looking at ways to ease restrictions “based on science,” adding two-dose vaccinations are key.

“But it’s very clear that even though one dose has allowed us to significantly protect Canadians to remove many of the pressures from our public health systems, it’s still an incomplete protection and we need people to get the full two doses of their vaccines. That’s why easing of restrictions will be focused on Canadians who are fully vaccinated,” he said.

Potter goes as far as saying the closure of the land border “was a blunt interment to help stop the pandemic, but the fact that people can fly to the U.S. to vacation without quarantining there, but a very limited number of essential workers can cross the border never made sense.”

Potter adds with the government talking about ending support programs “that have kept tourism businesses afloat” throughout the pandemic, the need to reopen the country to travel is dire.

B.C. industry backs calls for federal plan

The Tourism Industry Association of BC supports the TIAC’s calls, saying there needs to be a plan to open the land border and travel overall.

“If we don’t see international borders open soon, it will be devastating for many, many more businesses,” said CEO Walt Judas, adding the land border closure has been especially hard for B.C. businesses.

“We can’t afford to have a second year (of closures),” he told NEWS 1130. “It’s vital that we figure out a way how to open the border and do it sooner than later, or we’ll see many more businesses fall by the wayside.”

Judas would like to see what the federal government is going to base its decision on, such as what vaccination rate we’ll need to see or if rapid testing will be a factor.

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He says the industry needs to know when it can start planning to welcome visitors back, noting hiring and other measures need to take place and can’t be done overnight.

“Something that gives us some predictability and certainty,” he added.

Judas notes there’s a sense of anxiety throughout the hospitality and tourism industry, with the clock ticking for many as we enter the busy season.

According to the Tourism Industry Association of BC, international visitors on average spend three to five times more than domestic visitors.

The U.S. makes up the largest international market for B.C. tourism, Judas says. He adds there were nearly 4 million overnight visitors to B.C. from the U.S. in 2019, and 2.3 million same-day visitors.

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