TORONTO — The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) launched a new campaign to call on the federal government to plan for re-opening the Canada-U.S. border, which has been closed for nearly 15 months. The campaign focuses on getting Canadian decision-makers to acknowledge the urgent need and to commit to a date to open the border, before the summer tourism season is lost.
“Medical experts are telling us we’re winning the battle with COVID-19,” says Beth Potter, president and CEO of TIAC. “With vaccinations rising and case numbers going down, we must now pivot to more forward-thinking policies, and talk about safely re-opening the border, ending the extreme financial crush that has flattened the tourism industry and devastated the tourism economy in Canada. As Canada and the U.S. return to normal, we must prepare to open the border quickly and safely, and re-start our tourism economy.”
Earlier this month, the Expert Advisory Panel to the federal government on COVID-19 Testing and Screening made a powerful case for changing the travel policy, saying it should be re-vamped to reflect the significant progress made on the pandemic. This included scrapping the mandatory hotel-quarantine system and changing the cross-border travel policy.
“The land border closure was a blunt instrument to help stop the pandemic, but the fact that people can fly to the U.S. to vacation without quarantining there, but a very limited number of essential workers can cross the border never made sense. At the same time, the government is talking about ending crucial financial relief programs that have kept tourism businesses afloat during this entire ordeal. It can’t be both ways; either continue to support tourism businesses through programs like CEWS and CERS, or start re-opening the border so that businesses can get back to work,” says Potter, adding there is a lack of urgency on the Canadian side for planning for the inevitable re-opening of the border, “which has been out-of-step with U.S. officials and the Biden administration. President Biden formally asked for a border re-opening plan immediately after taking office, and so far, Canada has been slow to make any public progress.”
According to TIAC, public calls for the re-opening have been steadily growing on both sides of the border in recent weeks: Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for the border to open now; Liberal MPs Wayne Easter and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith have added their voices, and several prominent editorialists have called for the Canadian government to start the planning process.
“TIAC is asking the government to take urgent action on this issue, so that Canadian tourism operators and businesses have the ability to plan,” reads a statement from TIAC. “They need time to re-train, re-hire and market. Many rely on advance bookings and without a clear plan for re-opening and a commitment to when it will happen, people are uncertain as to whether or not they can book activities in Canada — at any date in the future. “
“The decision to close the border was made at a time of crisis,” says Potter. “Now that we are starting to come through on the other side, we must have a plan in place to re-open the border, to kickstart the Canadian tourism economy. The health and safety of Canadians continues to be of the utmost importance – which is why we need guidance from all levels of government on a plan.”
TIAC will be hosting a number of Parliamentary and Congressional panels in the coming weeks to discuss border re-opening. Visit openuscanborder.ca to learn more.