Brett Walker, Chair of the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO), sent a letter to Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, on Wednesday (Jan. 26), notifying him that the tourism industry is poised to lose another summer unless immediate steps are taken to signal to the world that Canada is open for business.
“Currently we are not,” Walker wrote in an email to PAX. “The required pre-departure PCR test for returning Canadians and visitors, as well being subject to an arrival PCR test and quarantine plan, will stifle any recovery.”
Walker’s letter, sent on behalf of CATO, which represents tour operators across Canada, was also cc’d to Ontario’s Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and Caroline Proulx, Minister of Tourism of Quebec.
“Eliminate all ineffectual travel barriers”
This past year, CATO commissioned an economic impact study of its members and engaged the services of BDO to conduct it.
In June, that Economic Impact Assessment was published and one of the most striking travel indicators contained in the report was the average advance purchase time of 5.7 months prior to travel.
“That timeline was consistent with advance purchase timelines prior to the pandemic and has remained unchanged,” Walker wrote in his letter. “What this means, is that for Canada to have a meaningful tourism recovery this summer or perhaps even this year, we need to eliminate all ineffectual travel barriers not driven by science.”
Air, rail, coach and almost all other modes of travel are exclusive to fully vaccinated travellers, Walker pointed out.
“We need to acknowledge the test positive rate of arriving travellers has remained close to one per cent consistently, compared to community rates of nearly 20 times that at the height of testing,” he wrote.
“We need to signal to the world that Canada is OPEN FOR BUSINESS.”
The two biggest barriers for international travellers considering a trip to Canada or abroad is Ottawa’s required pre-departure PCR test and arrival PCR test and quarantine plan, Walker stated.
“These are the #1 and #2 deterrents to any future travel demand or recovery and they are not supported by science or even the government’s own advisory council,” he wrote.
In a news release on Jan. 20, 2022, following the Canadian Council of Tourism Ministers meeting, it was stated “Canada has proven itself to be a destination where people can safely travel.”
Furthermore, it stated the ministers and associated federal-provincial-territorial governments commitment to “restoring travellers” confidence in Canada” and noting “visitor spending is a key economic contributor for communities from coast to coast to coast.”
“While there is no doubt lots to plan for and be done to build back the tourism industry better than before, we must also eliminate any unproven barriers,” Walker wrote.
Recently, Australia rescinded the need for visitors to obtain a PCR test within 72 hours of departure and replaced it with a rapid antigen test within 24 hours.
Similarly, the U.K. announced that it is dropping all testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers. Immediately following this announcement, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson proclaimed “this country is open for business, open for travellers.”
“Canada must open for business as well by eliminating all testing for fully vaccinated travellers or face the consequences of a horribly stunted recovery in 2022, if any at all,” Walker concluded.