Tour Operator Assn’s Urge Ottawa to Extend CEWS; Provide Reopening Plans

Brett Walker, Chair of CATO and Joan Tetrault, President of ATOQ

On 10JUN, The Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) and Association des Tours Opérateurs du Québec (ATOQ) urgently requested the government to commit to continued support of the Canadian tourism industry with the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) at the current level until at least 31DEC 2021.

In addition, they want to see clear guidelines and timelines for the resumption of international travel. 

The associations  are composed of professional tour companies. Due to the immense impact of the pandemic and ban on non-essential travel, CATO and ATOQ members have been  forced to temporarily and permanently lay off many employees.

“CATO and ATOQ tour operator members truly appreciate the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) which enabled us to retain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we were nonetheless forced to lay-off almost 30 per cent of our collective workforce, so we are fighting for our survival,” said Brett Walker, CATO Chair. 

Without an extension of CEWS to CATO and ATOQ members, they say tour operators will have no choice but to lay off or permanently let go of more employees. 

“With average advanced bookings made six months prior to departure and borders still closed, there will be little, if any, return to international travel before 2022. With CEWS running out, the only means to bridge the gap and save thousands of jobs is for the government to extend CEWS at the current level for our members and those hardest hit until the end of 2021,” he concluded.

The associations also point out that  tour operators will require at least six months to prepare and bridge the gap between the opening of international borders, and earning any revenue. Along with booking guests’ accommodations, flights, tour guides, and sightseeing excursions, they also need to co-ordinate health and well-being protocols that meet the new global standard.

For that reason, they are also urgently asking the government to publish updated criteria, and clear guidelines and timelines for the easing of travel restrictions and reopening of borders.

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