Amazing news! Progress! About friggin’ time!
Canada’s update returns to country-specific risk assessments (while still advising unvaccinated individuals to continue avoiding non-essential travel).
In a statement issued late last night, Founder of G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, called the news a “well overdue announcement.”
“Not just for us as an international tour operator, but for all the travel agents whose livelihoods depend on selling international travel,” Poon Tip said.
“Canada has been world-leading in terms of having our citizens vaccinated, and now we can be world-leading in encouraging people to start travelling again, and to safely support communities around the world that have been devastated by the lack of tourism these past 18 months.”
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) also applauded the news.
“We are pleased the government has returned to a risk-based approach to travel advisories for fully-vaccinated travellers,” said Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA. “This approach follows the recommendations ACTA and Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable partners have been making to government officials and ministers for many months now.”
Cruise warning “disappointing"
But the situation isn’t perfect. The Government of Canada decided to leave its Level 4 warning against cruise travel in place – a move Paradis called “disappointing.”
“Cruise line operators have proven that safe cruise travel is feasible,” Paradis said. “We continue to call on the federal government to lift the cruise advisory for fully-vaccinated travellers, recognizing the incredible efforts cruise lines have taken to follow strict government-mandated health and safety protocols.”
Caroline Hay, president of Cruise CEO, a cruise-focused host agency, called Canada’s update “fantastic” as it will make Canadians feel more confident to travel with the help of travel advisors.
This will get some “much-needed revenue into the hands of travel agents,” Hay told PAX.
However, there’s no reason for Canada to keep its cruise warning at the highest level possible, Hay added.
“Having sailed on a ship and also having experienced a land-based vacation over the past three months, I can speak firsthand about the incredible health protocols on board ships and the overall cruise experience,” Hay said. “Knowing that everyone on board is vaccinated and has presented a negative test allows travellers to sail in a safe way and still enjoy their time onboard.”
“Do not travel” alerts are needed, Hay said, except they should be reserved for extreme situations in “destinations such as North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries.”
“Cruise vacations do not compare to these places – yet they share the same advisory!” she said, encouraging agents to "get loud and vocal” about the issue.
“I encourage every cruise seller to reach out to your consortia, CLIA, ACTA, cruise partners, and Member of Parliament to gain support and advocate in getting this advisory lowered,” Hay said.
Enough with the PCR testing
Canada has also not changed its requirement for a pre-departure molecular (PCR) COVID-19 test for all fully vaccinated returning Canadians and international travellers.
“This is a significant barrier to travellers, including families and seniors, and ACTA urges the government to modernize pre-departure testing in accordance with the recommendation of the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel,” said Paradis.
Canada’s pre-departure testing rule for fully-vaccinated travellers does not follow the guidance of the government’s own expert advisory panel and ACTA is advising government to remove the requirement.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, appearing on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live on Oct. 17, said that acquiring a negative COVID-19 test has "proven to be one of the more effective requirements" for travellers.
The ongoing testing regime at the border is based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), he said.
“Again, we're continuing to evaluate it, and we'll look at the experience in other jurisdictions. But right now, it's been a very effective protection for Canadians," Minister Blair said at the time.