Canadian Tourism Calls for Open Borders for Foreigners
Canada is reluctant to let fully vaccinated foreign travelers into the country, according to several tourism industry officials who fear the economies of the country’s major cities will be hit hard.
“Enough is enough: we can’t wait any longer. Lots of companies […] are on the verge of losing another summer in the big urban centers, “said Yves Lalumière, CEO of Tourisme Montréal, at a press conference at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport.
Since July 6th Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer required to stay in a federally approved hotel after returning from abroad; they also don’t need to quarantine themselves at home unless they show symptoms of illness.
But international tourists are still not welcome in Canada, whether they are vaccinated or not. “If you’re Canadian with two cans of Moderna, you can travel [abroad]. But if you are an international traveler with two doses of the vaccine, you cannot come to Canada. It doesn’t make sense, “said Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
Paris recently reopened its doors to Canadian tourists, urging Ottawa to take a two-way approach to French travelers who cannot travel to Canada if their travel is deemed not essential.
“Canada is on track to become one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, but we are late to reopen the borders [double-vaccinated foreign tourists]”Said Leblanc.
Montreal’s tourism industry is having a tough time because there are no international tourists. “80% of the business is missing,” said Lalumière. “We send people out, but people from outside do not come to us. So it is a loss for Canada,” said the CEO of Tourisme Montréal, who urged Ottawa to “harmonize” the opening of its borders with the others. G7 countries.
“The Europeans have taken the lead, so we’re adjusting,” Leblanc said.
Many workers are likely to suffer from federal government inaction, said Christophe Hennebelle, vice president of human resources and public affairs at Air Transat. Jobs that feed thousands of Canadian families can’t wait any longer, “he said. It’s urgent. Summer is here, the travel season is here. And we risk missing it again this year.”
On the sidelines of a press conference in Gaspé last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he understood the “optimism and impatience” of the Canadian tourism sector. In recent weeks, however, the delta variant has gained further momentum both in Canada and in other countries and has even become the dominant variant among the newly discovered cases in the USA, he emphasized.
“It would be a disaster to have to go backwards because we were a few weeks early to get the necessary level of vaccination and protection,” Trudeau said. “Even as we near the end, we are not finished with this pandemic,” said the Prime Minister.
The Canada-US border is unlikely to reopen on July 21st. The Trudeau government has announced in recent days that the border could reopen once 75% of the population eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have received both of its doses. To date, 50% of Canadians aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated.
“During the vaccination campaign, we will be monitoring cases, hospital stays and vaccination rates here in Canada and around the world to help plan the next phase. Our decisions will continue to be based on public health advice and scientific data, ”said Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra wrote to Le Devoir.
Planning the recovery
Traffic has picked up slightly at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport as vaccinated Canadians can travel more easily. However, the return of foreign tourists to the city must be planned in advance, said Philippe Rainville, CEO of Montreal Airports.
The latter have to hire staff to receive these visitors, which could take “30 to 60 days”. “What is needed now is a detailed plan to have the time to take on this skilled workforce that we need,” he said.
Rainville also hopes to convince Ottawa to provide “relief” to fully vaccinated foreign travelers, such as exempting them from testing upon arrival in Canada. Otherwise, international visitors have to expect “many hours of waiting” on arrival in the country due to health restrictions. “We are heading for a serious bottleneck,” he said.
Therefore, Mr. Rainville is asking Ottawa to make his intentions known quickly. “We can not wait anymore. The month of August is critical to our industry and tourism is critical to Montreal, ”he concluded.