TORONTO — The two major travel announcements from last Friday – one from the Canadian government, and the other from south of the border – were welcomed by the industry, even though many in Canada, including Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault himself, say more needs to be done to get travel truly moving again.
On Friday afternoon the federal government announced the temporary suspension of random COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated passengers arriving at Canada’s airports, at least until June 30.
Reports of delays at the airports have been rampant for months, impacting both departing passengers – due largely to understaffing, especially at security checkpoints – and arriving passengers, sometimes enduring hours-long waits on the tarmac until lineups ease.
Meanwhile in the U.S., the CDC has rescinded its order for pre-departure testing for international arrivals. The move took effect yesterday, June 12, 2022, at 12:01 a.m.
Calls for the White House to lift the requirement had been ramping up in recent weeks, from industry organizations including the U.S. Travel Association.
Immediately after the news broke on Friday, U.S. Travel issued a statement. “Today marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States. The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO, U.S. Travel.
Other industry groups including the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) welcomed the U.S. news as well.
“STILL SIGNIFICANT WORK TO DO”
Here in Canada, the federal government’s announcement about the suspension of random COVID testing for fully vaccinated arrivals at Canada’s airports was met with positive feedback, though more needs to be done, says the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.
The Roundtable continues to call on the Canadian government to permanently remove all arrival testing and other remaining COVID-19 restrictions.
“Notwithstanding today’s announcements, there is still significant work to do to alleviate unnecessary pressures on the travel sector and passenger experience. This includes immediately lifting the outdated vaccine mandates for passengers and federally regulated aviation workers and removing the duplicative health checks at Canada’s airports,” says a statement from the Roundtable.
“While today’s announcement in Canada will remove some testing, there will remain congestion issues as all passengers’ vaccination status will continue to be determined at the border, with unvaccinated travellers still required to undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival through June.”
The delays and contestation have been particularly bad at Toronto Pearson Airport. According to stats released last week by the GTAA, in May 2022 some 2,700 arriving flights were affected by metering or holding, affecting the travel plans of more than 490,000 international arriving passengers.
The GTAA has also warned that international passenger numbers through Pearson are set to increase by 50% in the coming days.
The Roundtable says “Canada’s outdated rules are causing unacceptable delays at the country’s major airports, keeping international visitors away and souring Canada’s reputation on the world stage.”
Perrin Beatty, President & CEO of Canada’s Chamber of Commerce, put it this way: ”Unfairly targeting travel and tourism is a relic from the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical experts have been clear; Canada’s current border policies are outdated and no longer helping keep COVID-19 out of Canada. While today’s announcement marks an important step in the right direction, there is still work to do.”
The Roundtable is calling on the federal government to …
- Remove vaccination mandates for passengers and federally regulated aviation workers;
- Remove the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) duplicate health checks and questions through ArriveCAN at government checkpoints;
- Remove manual selection processes for testing from CBSA and within airports;
- Establish clear service standards for security and customs processing of passengers travelling through Canadian airports
“I’M NOT HAPPY WITH THE SITUATION”
Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, addressed the airport delays during CTV’s Question Period over the weekend.
Boissonnault told CTV: “I’m going to be very blunt. I’m not happy with the situation. I don’t want Canadians waiting in lines. I don’t want international travellers stuck on the tarmac. We’ve got an issue, we need to fix it, and we’re leaning in on this hard,” he said.
Boissonnault also said the government is working on getting the situation resolved before peak summer travel season. “I want to see this done in a matter of weeks, not a half a year or a year.”