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CATO urges govt. to provide clarity as travel advisory nears 4-month mark

TORONTO — CATO chair and Collette general manager Brett Walker has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and consumer media outlets on behalf of CATO, urging the federal government to provide clarity on the ongoing travel advisory against non-essential travel for Canadians.

It’s been almost four months since the travel advisory was put in place, essentially shutting down the travel industry as Canada tackled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inukshuk statues at Pearson International Airport

The health and safety of Canadians are still top of mind, but at the same time the travel industry needs to see a way forward, says Walker.

“We remain at a standstill with little, if any, prospects at the current time for recovery. Travel was the very first industry to be directly hit, and will be the very last to begin any form of recovery,” says Walker in the letter.

Last month the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable sent an open letter to the federal government, calling for the loosening of travel restrictions first within Canada and then internationally, from the travel advisory to the 14-day mandatory quarantine rule, also still in place.

Speaking to Travelweek this morning, Walker said: “As an industry we are not so much looking for more support, we are looking for more information and a chance to recover. Failing that the consequences are dire.”

He adds that Canada’s travel and tourism restart and recovery will depend largely on two issues: the openness of our borders and consumers’ confidence in travelling.
And when the border finally does open, “it’s NOT likely to be carte blanche.”

CATO members coordinated and developed stringent health and safety guidelines, now promoted as TOURCARE and serving as the industry’s principal baseline, he added.

FULL TEXT OF CATO’S OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

Here’s the full text of the letter, sent by Walker as Chair of CATO (Canadian Association of Tour Operators)…

“Our members, the likes of WestJet Vacations, Sunwing Vacations, Goway Travel, G Adventures, The Travel Corporation, Globus, Cosmos, Collette and many others, are a vital part of the travel landscape in Canada.

“The cumulative sales total of our membership is in the billions of dollars and tax inputs of tens of millions. Our members employ tens of thousands of Canadians as well as have an indirect effect on many thousands more employed as travel sellers, by hotels and airlines, to name a few.

“In mid-March when government imposed travel restrictions and advisories necessitated Canadians abroad to return home, it was our members that bore a significant amount of the costs for repatriation.

“Similarly, in the aftermath of Canada’s border closures and, in the midst of the pandemic, our members immediately took steps to protect the health of Canadians as well as future visitors.

“Our members coordinated and developed stringent health and safety guidelines that are verified, effective and transparent to all concerned. These guidelines, enshrined and promoted as TOURCARE now serve as the industry’s principal baseline.

“Yet our members, as well as the travel industry as a whole, have no idea when they will be able to operate again. We remain at a standstill with little, if any, prospects at the current time for recovery. Travel was the very first industry to be directly hit, and will be the very last to begin any form of recovery.

“The government has advised against non-essential travel since mid-March, which accordingly, has stopped Canadians from any sort of touristic travel.

“The government’s emergency order under the Quarantine Act requires all travellers arriving in Canada to quarantine for 14 days. This has prevented any incoming touristic travel and is a further disincentive for any Canadians thinking of travelling internationally.

“We request the government decide and make clear any measures and/or criteria required for opening of Canada’s borders and the restart of travel of all types, national and international.

“The travel industry is unlike any other industry. It can be quickly stopped but not easily started. It requires advance scheduling and commitments from both consumers as well as suppliers. Any meaningful supply-side recovery will be preceded by weeks, if not months of seeding demand recovery.

“While our membership supports the steps the government has taken to date to protect public health, it’s now time for the government to employ more precise analytics to continue to protect the public health of Canadians, but also allow for a sustained reopening of the travel and tour industry, a crucial part of the Canadian economy.”