If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the possibility of so-called ‘air bridges’, or travel bubbles, in this morning’s briefing, however any reopening of borders and loosening of travel restrictions to get these first steps started could be a long way off.
A reporter asked about the federal government’s plans for restarting travel, asking if the plan is to go step by step, and about the possibility of travel bubbles, like those in the works between Australia and New Zealand. Those two countries, both with low COVID-19 numbers, are in talks to reopen travel to each other’s destinations as a first step to safely restarting tourism.
In recent weeks the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable sent an open letter to the federal government, asking that travel restrictions begin to loosen first in Canada, and then beyond, and saying it’s #timetotravel.
Some members of that coalition, notably the head executives at Air Canada, Porter Airlines and WestJet, also signed another #timetotravel open letter that also ran as a full page ad in The Globe and Mail, calling for easing restrictions on travel, specifically business travel. That open letter was also signed by two dozen more executives of other major industries including banking and telecoms.
Trudeau reiterated at his briefing this morning that the health and safety of Canadians continues to be the government’s top priority.
“Obviously there are places in the world where the crisis is not as serious, but there are also places where it is still raging,” he said, in response to the reporter’s question.
“We will have to look very carefully at what we can do, and when we can start to reopen our borders.”
He said that “there are a lot of tourist operations … and companies like airlines that would very much like to see a return to international travel… so that we can get people coming in here … and see business travel pick up. But we need to make sure we are keeping Canadians safe first and foremost.”
He added: “I understand how difficult it is and how frustrating this is for some people. But we know that reopening too quickly or too carelessly could lead to a resurgence that will force us to go back into lockdown … and nobody wants that.
“We’re going to move forward very gradually. We’ll look at what steps can be taken based on the international context as a whole.”
Also this morning, Trudeau confirmed his June 16 announcement that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended by two months. In mid-May he announced that the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) would be extended to Aug. 29.