July 20, 2021, Travel Industry Today – WHAT’S NEXT?: The border’s open. Now what?
Travel Industry Today article is also viewable here
Tourism groups on both sides of the border are applauding yesterday’s announcement that Canada will open its land border to fully vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9; however, industry leaders maintain that the move is only the first step towards full recovery of the travel and tourism sector.
“The Canadian travel industry is pleased with yesterday’s announcement on reopening the border. This signals great progress – however there is still lots to be done,” says Beth Potter, president and CEO of Tourism Industry Association of Canada. “We need an all-hands approach to successfully reopen the sector, including collaboration on key issues such as digital vaccine certification and re-instilling confidence amongst Canadians about the safety and feasibility of travel.”
Chamber of Commerce of Canada CEO Perrin Beatty agrees, stating, “This is the lifeline so many Canadian businesses need to survive. However, now that the borders are re-opening, it is time for the government to start encouraging fully vaccinated Canadians to travel. The industry depends on it.”
And while Beatty’s comments are primarily directed towards domestic travel, they nevertheless also illustrate the government’s conflicted advice, even as it re-opened the border to returning (fully vaccinated) Canadians on July 5, that citizens “avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada – international travel increases your risk of exposure to COVID-19 and its variants, as well as of spreading it to others.”
South of the border, the US Travel Association crowed “Canada got it right!” with USTA exec Tori Emerson Barnes stating, “We applaud the release of a timeline that will allow vaccinated Americans to visit and cross the land border after many long months. Travel is a core component of the economy and job creation, and today’s announcement will spur a rebound of both in Canada.”
She acknowledged that the USTA does not believe that vaccines should be a requirement for travel, but added, “We strongly encourage all Americans to get a vaccine and we commend Canada for starting this process to restore border travel.”
Importantly for Canada’s outbound travel sector and Canadians looking to have the same privileges as their American counterparts for crossing the border, Barnes says the USTA is urging the Biden administration to reciprocate Canada’s gesture by “determining a date and a plan to welcome Canadian visitors at US land borders.”
Following the announcement by Canada on Monday, a reciprocal US response has been conspicuously absent, though experts believe it is imminent, not least because the most prominent proponents of the re-opening have been American border state politicians.
And as Barnes explains, “Land travel accounted for more than half of all overnight visits to the US by Canadians pre-pandemic, so taking this step – given the strong rates of vaccination in Canada – will help the US begin safely rebuilding with its No. 1 source market of international visitors.”
In this country, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, which has increasingly been loudly and publicly advocating that the federal government ease border measures immediately, calls the move “a step in the right direction,” but adds that many questions remain and that more details are required to ensure the smooth implementation of these new measures.
“Businesses need greater specificity and certainty with respect to reopening and we call on the government to work with industry to provide clear and practical guidance,” says the Roundtable.
It notes, for example, that Canada’s policy around children who cannot be vaccinated remains a disincentive to travel, which hurts the travel and tourism industry and is not in line with peer countries around the world.
Other concerns include the functionality of the ArriveCan app, which the government requires travellers to use to upload proof of COVID-19 vaccinations and testing – critics say it is clunky and lacking in security – as well as the eligibility of and response to travellers with vaccines not currently approved in Canada (particularly when phase two of the border re-opening plan allows international travellers to return Sept. 7).
Canada’s major airlines, meanwhile, are echoing the call for “further action,” even as they update schedules and bring capacity back online for the restart.
“We are certainly pleased to see firm dates for re-opening of our border for fully vaccinated travellers and elimination of hotel quarantine, but as the new measures take effect, we still firmly believe the government must take further steps and follow the clear recommendations released by Health Canada’s Expert Panel report including lowering quarantine duration for non-vaccinated and partially vaccinated travellers,” says Mike McNaney, President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest carriers (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet)
He adds, “We will be ready for August and September. But further policy changes will ultimately be needed to support the successful re-start of the industry and the tens of thousands of aviation jobs that have been impacted by the pandemic.”