The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable is once again calling on the federal government to remove unnecessary and non-science-based obstacles to international travel, such as the pre-departure PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers.
The group, on Thursday (Nov. 4), said the barriers disproportionately impact average Canadian families.
Further, the Roundtable is calling on the government to amend the "discriminatory child policy" for travelling minors.
"For the average Canadian family, travel is becoming increasingly difficult," the Roundtable said in a release. "The burdensome cost of a PCR test can add over CAD $200 per person or an additional $800 for a family of four for a round trip cross-border flight. This fee is proving cost-prohibitive to many Canadian families."
Unvaccinated minors travelling with their fully vaccinated parents are also unable to attend school, daycare and camp for two weeks after travel, potentially adding the cost of two additional weeks of private childcare, adding to the disincentive to travel, the Roundtable said.
"Until a vaccine for minors under 12 is approved, children should return to school using testing, not quarantine."
The calls come one week after the Roundtable called on the feds to remove pre-arrival PCR testing as Canada’s snowbird population gears up to head south for the winter.
The Canadian Tourism Roundtable is a cross-Canadian coalition of leaders in the tourism and travel sector – including representatives from airports, airlines, hotels, and chambers of commerce across the country – committed to working together to restart the sector smoothly and safely.
What other countries are doing
The group says Ottawa's policies were intended to be temporary and run counter to the recommendations made by the federal government's COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel Report in May of this year.
Many countries have recognized that easing restrictions for unvaccinated children is low risk, and they, therefore, exempt unvaccinated children travelling with fully vaccinated adults from any quarantine.
For example: In France, the measures applicable to vaccinated adults also apply to any minors accompanying them, regardless of vaccination.
In the United Kingdom, rules for fully vaccinated people also apply to travellers under 18 who reside in the UK or one of the listed countries with approved vaccination programs.
France, Portugal, Germany and the United Kingdom also recognize that requiring pre-departure and arrival tests for vaccinated travellers is redundant and have exempted fully vaccinated travellers from pre-departure testing requirements.
Although many had travel bookings lined up over the November-December period, the travel and tourism industry is bracing for cancellations, with Canadian families looking to either cancel or delay long-awaited winter trips and family visits, the Roundtable said.
"The PCR test is a major barrier for middle-class families hoping to travel across the border," said Sheila Gallant-Halloran, owner of Lush Life Travel. "The result is that families simply aren't travelling. The cost and inconvenience is too high, and until the federal government takes action to reduce the obstacles to travel, small Canadian tourism businesses like mine will not be able to recover fully."
The Roundtable added that the pandemic, vaccination status, and available science "have changed."
"So too should the response and measures to keep Canadians safe while allowing the travel and tourism industry to re-open," the group said.
Missed family milestones
David Schwartz, a father of two who lives in Ottawa, ON, said travel is just not possible for his family right now.
He said his family hoped to be with his in-laws in Texas to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this winter, but molecular tests for all of them would add $800 to $1,000 to the cost of the trip.
Keeping both kids home for an extra two weeks after the trip is not reasonable, he said, noting that a negative test with no symptoms should be enough.
"We've done everything we could to support the pandemic effort as a family. We got vaccinated, we stayed home, we missed those family milestones,'' Schwartz said at a press conference on Thursday.