OTTAWA — The Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable today called on the federal government to remove the pre-departure PCR test and amend what it calls the discriminatory child policy for travelling minors.
Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, together with an Ottawa-area family as well as Sheila Gallant-Halloran with Vision Travel, outlined at a media briefing how the mandatory pre-departure PCR testing for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers is proving prohibitively expensive to Canadian families.
The cost of those tests, combined the fact that unvaccinated minors are unable to attend school, daycare or camp for two weeks following their return, is making for a one-two punch and hindering the recovery of family travel.
Gallant-Halloran says she’s seeing it first-hand at her agency. “The results of these cost-prohibitive measures are reflected in booking rates,” she said. “Although many had travel bookings lined up for November and December, the tourism industry is bracing for cancellations. I’m already seeing cancellation after cancellation.”
It’s time for the rules to keep up with developments in science that will keep families safe while travelling, and allow them to travel, she said.
In pre-pandemic times, family travel accounted for more than 35% of international travel from Canada, said Gallant-Halloran, adding that doesn’t even include travel to the U.S.
The hurdles of the PCR testing costs, and the fact that unvaccinated minors travelling with vaccinated parents face two weeks away from schools and daycares, “is a fundamental problem for the sector,” she said.
Coming into this (hopefully) last phase of the pandemic, Gallant-Halloran says she assumed travel “would already be up and running. It is not. And this is most particularly true for families.”
She adds: “Families like certainty when they travel. They like booking certainty, and cost certainty. And they like to know what they can expect when they arrive at their destination and when they depart. The travel industry is back in a position where we can provide this certainty to our customers. However our federal government is making this difficult. And whether it’s the cost-prohibitive pre-departure PCR tests to return home, or the discriminatory child policy prohibiting grandchildren from visiting down south, or just the unclear messaging, many families are choosing to stay home.”
Gallant-Halloran also spoke about the industry as a whole. “As you can imagine, the past 18 months has been a particular challenge for the travel and tourism industry. It has not been easy, from the agent or advisor, from the hotel to the airline. Everyone has been deeply affected. That said, as an industry we are very strong. We have been focused on rebuilding our industry to come back and fill the demand of a population that’s ready to get back on the road.”
ADDING TO THE ABSURDITY
Beatty noted travel is becoming increasingly difficult to reach for the average Canadian family. “The burdensome cost of a molecular test can add over $200 Canadian per person. For a family of four this adds an additional $800 for a trip, a fee that has proven cost-prohibitive to many Canadian families,” he said.
“To add to this absurdity, the government of Canada’s website states explicitly that if your trip will be less than 72 hours, you’re still required to produce proof of a negative test. But you can take the test in Canada before you leave for your trip. How does this make any sense?”
“Travel is becoming available increasingly only to business travellers and wealthier families,” said Beatty.
Father of two David Schwartz was also at the media briefing, and he outlined the challenges of travelling as a family these days. For a family of four, the PCR tests add between $800 to $1,000 to the cost of a trip. “That’s a significant cost and it’s giving us pause,” he said. Over the course of the pandemic, family milestones have been missed, and now the family is looking to reconnect with loved ones. “My grandmother celebrated her 100th and 101st birthday throughout this pandemic and none of us were able to be with her,” said Schwartz. “We’re asking the government today to please change the rules … so we can get back to a normal life.”
Today’s Roundtable briefing and message to the federal government follows up on a briefing last month outlining how PCR test costs, hassle and confusion are also impacting senior travellers.