Photo by Nick Wong

Will the summer of 2022 live up to its billing as “the summer of revenge travel?” After two years of travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, consumers are eager, willing and ready to travel. But is travel ready for consumers? That’s the burning question as countries try to re-ignite travel and tourism amidst continuing travel delays and hassles, causing endless frustrations for consumers who once again want to journey forward but who are caught in a quagmire of staff cuts and processing restrictions.

Making matters more complicated, U.S.-bound travellers are impacted both by CATSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCB) staffing shortages. Additionally, international arrivals are facing their own frustrations with lengthy delays in border processing brought on by changing requirements in response to COVID-19. The delays are so severe airport and airline staff are being forced to hold passengers on planes and deliberately restrict the flow of arriving travellers into the custom hall for processing.

The problems are exacerbated by a lack of investment in the sector, critical projects that had to be deferred, layoffs of specialized labour and the resulting labour shortage, as well as the financial challenges still faced as a result of the pandemic.

It’s a no-win situation for all involved. On the one hand, governments need to be mindful of safe practises to keep Canadians healthy and to ensure further transmission of COVID-19 is stemmed. On the other hand, the rules and regulations are causing bottlenecks, frustration, and confusion amongst travellers — many who don’t always fully understand the various layers of rules for travelling through a pandemic — all of which is stifling the free flow of travel, which is so vital for the global recovery of the economy.

Canada’s largest airport, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) recently issued a press release calling on governments to solve the issues and streamline or eliminate inbound legacy public health requirements at Canada’s airports, and in doing so, help to alleviate bottlenecks for international arriving, among other asks.

Others like the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) are calling on the Minister of Public Safety and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to increase the number of border services officers assigned to passenger operations in Canadian airports and alleviate the pressure on both airport personnel and travellers, citing that many of these staff shortages predate the pandemic.

Clearly, much work remains to be done on this front and will require a steadfast commitment from government to move quickly to make the necessary improvements in order to streamline the travel process. Too much time has already been lost in the past two years — the industry just can’t afford any more.

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