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Tourism industry wants Canada to ease COVID travel restrictions as other countries open

“That is a huge obstacle to encourage people to travel to Canada, whereas other countries are lifting those barriers entirely,” Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC said.
Air Canada plane

As we slowly emerge from the Omicron wave and countries around the world ease restrictions on international travel, there are growing calls for Canada to follow suit.

Those in the tourism industry say some requirements to fly into the country just don’t make sense anymore.

Fully vaccinated travellers are still required to provide proof of a pre-departure PCR test, as well as take one upon arrival. Depending on where you’re arriving from, the cost of a molecular test can be high and add up if you are travelling with others.

“I think industry, in general, believes if people have been fully vaccinated, there is no need to go through hoops and obstacles to get into Canada,” said Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC.

“That is a huge obstacle to encourage people to travel to Canada, whereas other countries are lifting those barriers entirely,” he added of testing requirements and other measures.

The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable is set to hold a news conference Thursday at 7 a.m. PST to call on the federal government to remove — what the group calls — “unnecessary” and “non-science-based” obstacles to international travel.

The roundtable appears to have experts on its side, with a group of doctors also expected to address the public Thursday.

While Canada continues to keep restrictions in place and recommend against non-essential travel outside of the country, places like the U.K. and Australia have recently loosened barriers for international travellers.

WestJet and Air Canada have also called on the federal government for change, arguing air travel continues to be the most tested, yet most restricted consumer activity in Canada.

The airlines also say Canada is the only G7 country to require testing both before and after arrival.

Judas says not only is there a growing appetite to remove travel restrictions in Canada — there has been for some time.

“The belief is that if you have been fully vaccinated, including the booster, you are as protected as you can be. Plus, you’d be following health and safety protocols for whatever province you’re in and that includes mask mandates or vaccine passports, etcetera. You should be free to travel into our country from any other country in the world,” Judas told CityNews.

A number of travel measures have been in place for much of the pandemic, with the goal of trying to slow the spread of the virus.

However, there have been calls for Canada to revisit its restrictions for some time now. Travel testing was briefly suspended for people who were taking trips less than 72 hours long and who were crossing the land border from the U.S. last year. However, that measure was reinstated after the rise of the Omicron variant.

There are few, if any, restrictions for Canadians who want to leave the country, aside from what is required by their destination locations.

“When people leave the country, it really evokes confidence in travel and if Canadians are leaving for other destinations, by right they’d like to invite their friends and relatives to come back with them or come back to Canada for a visit,” Judas said.

The devastating impact the pandemic has had on tourism across Canada has been well documented over the past couple of years. It was one of the sectors hardest hit by the virus and measures brought in to slow its spread.

Judas says tourism is seeing positive signs amid continued vaccinations, despite being “hammered.”

“People wanting to travel, there’s pent-up demand, we’re starting to see more lift from the airlines, people inquiring about visiting Canada, the growing movement to remove barriers, that all, I think, bodes well for our industry,” he said.

He says it will be years before the tourism industry will be able to rebuild to what it once was, adding many businesses and operators will continue to need government support to stay afloat.

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