The Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable ("The Roundtable"), comprised of leaders across the travel and tourism industry - with representatives from airlines, airports, hotels, and travel organizations - hosted a press conference on Wednesday (June 1) calling on the federal government to promote a responsible reboot of the travel and tourism industry during Canada's National Tourism Week.
Susie Grynol, President of the Hotel Association of Canada, says the Roundtable is looking forward to encouraging more Canadians to travel.
“When the pandemic began, tourism was the industry first hit, hardest hit, and will be the last to fully recover. Prior to COVID-19, tourism was one of the fastest growing industries in the world, but hangover public health requirements are stifling the industry's ability to recover. We need to remove unnecessary requirements and streamline duplicative processes at our airports immediately as travel volumes increase by the day," said Grynol.
Urgent relief needed
The Roundtable is calling on the federal government to provide urgent relief at the border by alleviating pressures currently facing travellers at Canada's airports before June 15, 2022.
The Roundtable appreciates recent decisions by the federal government to increase the number of Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) screening officers.
These measures are longer-term solutions that will take weeks before materially impacting wait times for travellers at Canadian airports.
Monette Pasher, Interim President of the Canadian Airports Council shared that there is a lot of pent-up demand for travel. In May, hub airports began to see 70 per cent of pre-pandemic passenger traffic levels.
According to Pasher, Canada's four hub airports are currently processing on average 56,000 international passengers a day this is forecasted to grow by 50 per cent per day this summer.
“It's challenging to manage that level of traffic, with the left over, legacy public health protocols still in place at our international borders. It would normally take a customs agent 30 seconds to process a passenger and now it's taking two to four times that because of public health protocols. Normal travel volumes cannot co-exist with current public health protocols in place within our airport facilities. We need the federal government to remove the remaining public health requirements at the border to immediately alleviate pressure on the system," said Pasher.
For this reason, the Roundtable calls on the federal government to take the following short-term measures by no later than June 15, 2022, to ease pressure on the system:
- Remove vaccination mandates for CATSA and CBSA;
- Remove the Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) duplicate health checks and questions through ArriveCan at government checkpoints
- Relocate or remove on-site mandatory random testing from Canada's airports; and,
- Establish clear service standard benchmarks for security and customs processing of passengers travelling through Canadian airports.
Canadians can attend concerts, go to sporting events, and gather in significant numbers; travel should no longer be singled out with unscientific and unnecessary COVID policies which many countries around the world have rightfully removed.
Patrick Doyle, Vice President and General Manager at American Express Global Business Travel stated that the travel and tourism industry has only just begun the long road to recovery after more than two years of uncertainty.
“Health restrictions first implemented at the beginning of the pandemic are contributing to the loss and postponement of business travel, conferences and events across the country, which has the potential for long-term impacts," added Doyle.
To help the sector recover, the Roundtable is urging the federal government to remove bottleneck, bureaucratic processes and streamline government checkpoints.
According to the Roundtable, the government needs to require their agencies need to meet intended levels of service and performance benchmarks. This will provide predictability for travellers looking to depart and arrive in Canada.
The Roundtable shared that Canada's airports simply do have the infrastructure or the space to provide on-site passenger testing for COVID-19.
As demand for travel returns and other global economies re-open, Canada's border policies need to reflect the new reality, or risk being a country left behind.
“It’s time for the Government of Canada to revisit COVID-19 pandemic restrictions placed on air travel, in line with a growing list of over 50 countries that have removed barriers to travel altogether," said Suzanne Acton-Gervais, Interim President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada.