Leaders of industry groups representing Canada’s travel and tourism sector have called on the federal government to lift some border measures, saying Canada’s reputation as a tourism-friendly destination depends on it.
The travel, tourism and hospitality sectors have been the hardest hit during the pandemic. “Necessary public health restrictions have led to the closure of many of our businesses, most of whom are just barely making it to the other side,” said Susie Greenwell, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada.
“We have done our part to keep Canadians safe, and now it’s our turn to recover. Travel is back with a vengeance and we couldn’t have been happier. But the passenger experience at our Canadian airports is a challenge.”
Grenoll was speaking at a news conference in Ottawa on June 1 with other representatives of the Travel and Tourism Canada Roundtable.
It cited lengthy airport delays caused by frequent medical checks, random access tests, and other “unnecessary restrictions” as major impediments to the industry’s recovery.
She noted that other countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom and Switzerland have fully opened their doors and are “highly competitive destinations”.
“We think Canada should follow suit,” she said.
Monette Basher, interim president and CEO of Airports Council of Canada, made three demands from the group to help reduce congestion at airports.
These include removing mandatory random testing at airports, removing duplicate Public Health Canada (PHAC) health screening questions at checkpoints, and allowing unvaccinated security personnel to return to work.
Bacher said airport traffic will only increase as the summer travel season increases and it will be “difficult to manage that level of traffic with outdated public health protocols.”
She urged the government to remove border restrictions before June 15.
PHAC announced on May 31 that current procedures for travelers entering Canada have been extended until at least the end of June.
Patrick Doyle, vice president and general manager of American Express Global Business Travel, said the government’s recent steps have been encouraging but not sufficient, and that “rapid” action must be taken.
“Our reputation is on the line,” he said at a June 1 news conference.
Transport Canada on May 27 announced plans to increase airport staffing and other measures to address bottlenecks and improve efficiency.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) also noted in a report released on May 31 that the government had allocated an additional $330 million to fund the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency (CATSA) that had not been announced in previous budgets.
The report reads: “The additional funding may allow CATSA to accommodate the usual seasonal increase in summer air travel.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the government’s travel measures on June 1 when asked about increased pressure from the tourism industry.
“Well, the truth is as much as people like to pretend we’re not, we’re still in a pandemic,” Trudeau told reporters at Parliament House.
“We are still at risk. We are particularly at risk as fall approaches with the new variables. We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep Canadians safe.”
Trudeau also said last week during a media event in Vancouver that “it’s great to put this pandemic behind us somewhat even though we know we still have to be vigilant.”
Pressure on the federal government to lift travel restrictions has steadily grown in recent days.
On May 24, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged the government to lift travel restrictions citing “enormous delays” at airports.
On May 31, CEO of Canadian airline WestJet Alexis von Hoensbroech called on Ottawa to drop the vaccine’s mandate for travel, saying “there is no logic to maintain”.
Meanwhile, a Tory proposal calling for a return to pre-pandemic travel rules was rejected this week in the House of Commons.
While the Quebec bloc and the National Democratic Party voted against the proposal, along with most of the Liberal Party, two Liberal MPs objected, while Representative Nathaniel Erskine Smith later publicly called for an end to the vaccine travel mandate.