TORONTO — The focus was inbound travel, but the urgent message from big-name Toronto attractions for the federal government was relevant for the entire travel industry: reopen the Canada-U.S. border to fully vaccinated travellers, and get a plan in place for the recovery of Canada’s travel industry, tourism and the economy.
The latest briefing from the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable took place this morning in front of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in downtown Toronto, which has been closed for 309 days and counting. Closed since Nov. 2020, the attraction has had zero revenue coming in, says General Manager Peter Doyle.
The federal government’s eased quarantine restrictions take effect at 11:59 p.m. on July 5 for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning to Canada. Foreign nationals – ie. the international travellers who normally visit Canada in droves – still have to quarantine.
And, of course, the Canada-U.S. border is still closed, at least until July 21.
On June 22 Prime Minister Trudeau said it could be a matter of weeks, not months, before restrictions ease further. “We certainly hope we will have more good news about reopenings in the coming weeks,” said Trudeau last week.
That light is on the horizon, but the summer months are crucial for tourism, and every week counts.
“It’s clear from our members of the desire to open their doors to both domestic and foreign visitors is of paramount concern, and around the world major cities are preparing for the safe resumption of international business travel,” said Lindsay Broadhead, SVP, Communications and Public Affairs of the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
“The OECD and World Health Organization in recent weeks have launched safe travel and smart vaccine initiatives. We are aware of more than 40, different digital health ID or immunization certificates, under development. Governments and other markets are preparing for travel bubbles, committing less restrictive travel under certain conditions.”
She added: “While it’s prudent to acknowledge continued risks of uncertainties for the Delta variant. I want to stress that our position at the board, continues to be that there is a very real urgency to ensure plans are in place to open the economy.
“Further we need to do something to undo all of the residual fear in the general population that persists with our country, on track to achieve unprecedented vaccine vaccination levels in the developed world. It’s time to un-scare the public.”
Vito Curalli, Executive Director of International Sales and Industry Relations at Hilton Hotels, added that, “Canada cannot afford to be left behind as other countries around the world begin to reopen.”
Curalli said that many of Canada’s hotels were asked to provide government-approved quarantine accommodation for returning travellers. “We did our job. But the time has come to transition away from those restrictive measures and move towards a safe, reopening based on science. Now it’s time for the government to stand up and do their part.”
Curalli added: “Canadians and Canadian companies deserve a comprehensive national plan to reopen our economy. Ensure the free movement of Canadians across the country, reopen the U.S.- Canada border and put in place a clear vaccination certification program to allow re entry to international travellers. I think we can all agree that these are critical measures that will enable the recovery of the travel and tourism sector, and help to kickstart Canadian economy that we so desperately need.”
CANADA’S LAGGING, BUT SAVINGS LEVELS ARE HIGH
Today’s briefing came as Mastercard released its ‘Recovery Insights: Ready for Takeoff?’ research, which showed that while one-fifth of countries studied have returned to at least 90% of pre-pandemic levels for domestic flight bookings, other countries, including Canada, lag behind.
“According to the analysis, one-fifth of countries studied have returned to at least 90% of pre-pandemic levels for domestic flight activity. While some — including the US, Australia and France — are exceeding pre-pandemic domestic flight bookings, others — such as Canada, Thailand and New Zealand — are at a fraction of where they were before the pandemic began,” says the report.
There is some good news though. According to Mastercard’s research, the US, followed by Canada, Belgium, and Australia, have the most ‘excess’ savings as a percent of annual personal consumption expenditure. “As people prepare to reemerge, pent-up savings [are helping] fuel sales across a variety of categories,” says Mastercard. No doubt one of those categories will be travel.