The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) says that 2021 brought “another blow to the industry – and to travel agents” as the federal government, on Wednesday (Jan. 6), formalized the pre-boarding testing requirement they first announced on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31).
The new travel rule, which was unveiled without prior consultation with industry stakeholders, gave airlines, tour operators and travel agents just one week to prepare.
“This latest development has put travel agents in an even more precarious situation and ACTA cannot stress enough the acute need for urgent financial support for travel agents and the entire travel industry including airlines, airports, tour operators and travel agencies,” said ACTA President Wendy Paradis in a statement.
Ottawa's new order requires all international passengers entering Canada to have a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to arrival.
Documentation of this test must be presented to the airline prior to boarding and travellers that do not have a test result (when there are clinics available) will be turned away.
Travellers that can prove that they were unable to get a test abroad will be able to board, but will have to quarantine at a government facility for 14 days upon arriving into Canada.
Even with a negative test in hand, all travellers who enter Canada must still complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine, unless exempted under the Quarantine Act.
ACTA is calling on the government to reconsider this new mandatory requirement that does not remove or reduce the 14-day quarantine.
“A far better solution for Canadians and the industry would be to test on arrival,” said Paradis.
ACTA has been advocating to the government for months to work with industry to develop a well thought out, science-based program for rapid testing that would keep Canadians safe and reduce the 14-day quarantine.
“We had seen some progress with the pilot projects taking place across the country in late 2020 with testing in Canadian airports and today it was rolled out in Toronto, but on a voluntary basis and it does not at this time replace the new testing requirement in destination, which we believe would be a far better solution,” said Paradis.
The extremely tight deadline to ensure that airlines have processes in place and for travel agents to notify clients already in transit about the new requirements are unrealistic and have created chaos for travellers and the industry.
“This new requirement is yet another blow to travel agents who are seeing any possible bookings from clients evaporate as they express concern and cancel,” said Paradis.
ACTA's 2021 priorities
In a release issued on Wednesday, ACTA outlined its full agenda ahead in advocacy.
Here are the immediate priorities:
- Finding better alternatives to testing and 14- day quarantines
- Commission recall costs to be covered in any airline aid package
- Liquidity assistance - new HASCAP loan program that still has not launched
- Extension of the CRB for Independent Travel Agents to the end of June, 2021
- Extension of the 75% wage subsidy to minimum June 30, 2021
- The inclusion of the 25% top-up benefit in the rent subsidy program
ACTA said it is working directly with senior government directors and policy advisors on these critical issues and will need ongoing support in 2021 from all travel agencies, independent travel advisors and travel agents.
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