OTTAWA — As Canada gears up for a likely fall election, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable and industry leaders are asking the federal government to hold off on sending Canadians to the polls until a comprehensive re-opening plan for Canada’s tourism industry is established and implemented.
The Roundtable held the latest in its series of briefings today, following up on its June 29 event.
“Canada is known for having some of the most amazing tourist attractions in the world. Every year millions of foreign nationals visit communities across the country to experience first-hand what Canada has to offer. This year, for the second year in a row, local businesses that rely on national and international visitors are still struggling,” said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “We all know that an election means a pause on all government activity. Canadians and Canadian businesses deserve to know what re-opening looks like long before a federal election is called.”
Today’s briefing also focused on Ottawa-area businesses with a stake in the tourism industry. With the second consecutive summer travel season now officially in jeopardy, time is ticking for Ottawa businesses, says the Roundtable.
In a normal year, Ottawa’s tourism sector generates $2.2 billion in revenue; last year $1.4 billion was lost to COVID-19. The summer travel season is disproportionately important to local Ottawa businesses.
The Roundtable says that with vaccination rates where they are today, businesses have suffered unnecessarily; in large part resulting from the federal government’s failure to produce a comprehensive and science-based re-opening plan.
As the Roundtable points out, Canadians have been rushing in droves to get vaccinated, breaking records nearly every day. In Ottawa alone, nearly 50% of Ottawa adults are now fully vaccinated and almost 70% have received one dose of the vaccine, making Ottawa one of the most vaccinated cities in the world.
The federal government should be rewarding this effort with clear guidance on what re-opening looks like. Fully vaccinated foreign travellers are still unable to visit Canada and this is devastating local business.
The federal government’s eased travel restrictions, eliminating quarantine measures, for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning to Canada came into effect July 5. However so far foreign nationals, ie. travellers from other countries, must still follow through with quarantine measures.
“At this stage in the pandemic, we expect our federal government to have a clear plan in place. Countless businesses in Ottawa have either already permanently closed or are on the brink of bankruptcy,” said Sueling Ching, President and CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade. “Our business community needs a predictable, clear and science-based plan in place to build back our economy. Tourism in the Ottawa area is a key driver of the local economy which normally draws millions of visitors each year. With vaccines rolling out across the country, businesses expected that tourism would return to Ottawa. Instead we are left waiting for a plan.”
Susie Grynol, President and CEO, Hotel Association of Canada, added that 80% of Canadian tourism revenue comes in over 20% of the time. “July through Labour Day is disproportionately important to sustain our sector. The large number of visitors in Canada’s summer months is able to sustain hospitality and tourism operators through the slower winter travel season. Cutting that period short, even a little bit, will significantly impact their likelihood of survival,” said Grynol.
Ross Meredith, Dual General Manager, The Westin Ottawa and Delta Hotels by Marriott, said that usually at this time of year The Westin Ottawa is buzzing with people from all over the world. “This year, it’s eerily quiet,” he says. “Ottawa is a world-class city. We are home to many of the best festivals, concerts, and sporting events that the country has to offer. However, this year everything’s cancelled. Our ballrooms are empty, and restaurants are quiet – no weddings, no conferences, no meetings. As a result, our hotels are struggling. We need a plan to start getting back to normal, we can’t afford to wait.”