This week, we saw an important step taken towards normalizing travel:
Earlier this week, the federal government announced it will drop the vaccine mandate for domestic and outbound travel, federally regulated transportation sectors, and federal government employees. As of June 20, vaccination will no longer be required to board a plane or train in Canada and employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine sectors will no longer be required to have mandatory vaccination policies in place for employees.
As the pandemic has evolved and new tools have emerged to control the impact of COVID-19, TIAO has been advocating for government to remove barriers to travel. As such, we welcome this move and the opportunities it will provide the tourism industry and broader visitor economy: it will help increase provincial and inter-provincial travel, help address staffing challenges in federally regulated transportation sectors, and help streamline processes at our airports – resulting in a better customer experience.
But while we are encouraged by the announcement, TIAO is still concerned about the unanswered questions of when unvaccinated travellers will be able to visit Canada and, crucially, when ArriveCAN will be eliminated or processes simplified and made more accessible for travellers. These are concerns we have been raising on TV and radio appearances this week, as we have been speaking to what the changes will mean for the tourism industry.
With cross-border land travel between the United States and Canada still at only 50.8% of normal travel volumes, border towns are bearing the brunt of the vaccine mandate for foreign nationals. Reliant on US clientele for upwards of 90% of their business, northern Ontario tourism operators are again seeing cancellations from US visitors due to the vaccine mandate - but also ArriveCAN requirements.
The mandatory use of ArriveCAN is creating challenges for inbound foreign nationals, as well as Canadians returning from abroad. With ArriveCAN only allowing submissions up to 72 hours in advance of arriving in Canada, travellers on longer trips and without a smartphone are left with few options if they can't locate a business centre. As a result, seniors in particular have been impacted, with many deterred from travelling altogether. In other cases, it has meant added costs for businesses, with some tour operators resorting to purchasing printers to bring onboard the tour bus in order to print ArriveCAN receipts.
And so, while this week’s announcement was an important step for the tourism industry, there is still more that needs to be done. We need to remove the vaccine mandate for all travellers in all directions; and if ArriveCAN isn’t to be eliminated entirely, we need to simplify the processes and remove the 72-hour window to submit the required information, making use of ArriveCAN easier and more accessible for more travellers. TIAO will continue working with federal counterparts to remove these remaining obstacles to travel – only then will the tourism industry and wider visitor economy truly be able to recover.
Thank you for your continued support. And of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
President & CEO
Director, Policy & Government Affairs