Enthusiasm from border communities as Canada made it official Friday that PCR tests would no longer be required for fully vaccinated Canadians returning after less than 72 hours outside the country were not echoed by the broader travel and tourism industry.
The move facilitates the kinds of short road trips favoured by cross-border shoppers to the U.S., for example, but does little to move the needle for most Canadian tourism stakeholders – or for Canada’s travel advisor and agency community or travel suppliers.
Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable: “Not far enough”
“In effect, today’s announcement opens the door to Canadians looking to support U.S. businesses like malls, hotels, and airports in advance of the holiday season, while firmly closing the door on Americans looking to visit Canada and support our domestic businesses, who are struggling after nearly two-years of pandemic closures. All American travellers looking to visit Canada still require a pre-departure PCR test to visit Canada,” said Perrin Beatty, Co-Chair of the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable (“The Roundtable”) and President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
According to a statement issued by the Roundtable, “The industry welcomes the decision to recognize WHO approved vaccines, which supports the sector’s recovery. However, while today marks a very small step in the right direction, it does not go far enough to help rebuild an industry devastated by COVID-19 pandemic.”
The organization is calling on Ottawa to immediately drop all testing requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals into Canada.
“Canada stands alone as the only country in the world that is basing its travel rules on trip duration rather than vaccination status. To help rebuild Canada’s tourism industry we need testing requirements that are consistent with those in place in other countries. And we need to harmonize those requirements across all modes of transportation be it by plane, car, boat, coach or train,” said Beth Potter, Co-Chair of the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable and President & CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.
National Airlines Council of Canada: “It is not the duration of the trip or the nationality of the passenger that is relevant”
Canada’s major airlines agree.
Mike McNaney, President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest air carriers (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz and WestJet) also issued a statement in response to Friday’s announcement.
“PCR tests are expensive and unduly increase the cost of travel, in particular for families. But, by only focussing on short trips and Canadian travellers, the government has taken a piecemeal approach that is not justified nor based on science. To our knowledge, no other country in the world has adopted such a narrow approach,” his statement said.
“The pre-departure testing regime was implemented well before vaccines entered widespread use and vaccination became a requirement to travel. The pre-departure test is simply no longer justified for fully vaccinated travellers.
“It is not the duration of the trip or the nationality of the passenger that is relevant, but rather the vaccination status of the traveller that is key.
“Today’s announcement will continue to create confusion for consumers. What was needed was a clear one-time policy change. We are therefore calling on the government to provide a clear timeline on when trips longer than 72 hours will no longer require a PCR test regardless of the travellers’ nationality,” he concluded.
Opposition Critics: A “Confusing” “Half Measure”
According to Global News, the industry’s position mirrors that of the Opposition in government, which is expected “to press the government on the new rules when the new Parliament opens.”
Conservative MP and transport critic Melissa Lantsman calls the new rules “a half measure.”
“I think it’s confusing, and I think that the prime minister ought to start listening to his own expert advisory panel,” she said.
“Scrapping the PCR test is where we need to go. We need to do it for our economy. We need to do it to get in line with our allies.”