While some industry pros are applauding the recently-announced changes to federal quarantine rules for some fully vaccinated travellers, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) says the updated border measures won't properly kick-start travel agency sales through summer.
While the news is a “welcome step forward for Canada’s travel industry,” said Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, in a release, “unfortunately, continued non-essential travel advisories and restrictions offer little hope of recovery this summer.”
The changes, announced on Monday (June 21), mean that, starting July 5 at 11:59 p.m., fully-vaxxed Canadians and permanent residents will be able enter Canada without undergoing quarantine or taking a COVID-19 test on day eight.
Eligible travellers arriving by air will also no longer be forced to stay at a government-authorized hotel.
Travellers must, however, use the ArriveCAN app to show a receipt proving they have received a full, Canada-approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering the country.
Individuals must also undergo pre and on-arrival PCR testing, be asymptomatic and have a suitable quarantine plan prepared.
There are no changes to border and quarantine rules for travellers that are not fully vaccinated.
While generally viewed as a positive step forward for restarting travel, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, on Monday, said the government will still "strongly advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel."
This messaging doesn’t serve travel agents and agencies, said ACTA, which is pushing Ottawa to release a data-driven plan for safely restarting the travel and tourism sector.
“ACTA was disappointed that the federal government reiterated its position that Canadians should avoid all non-essential travel,” the association said in a statement. “ACTA continues to call for a clear, science-based plan that lays a path forward for easing travel advisories and restrictions based on vaccination and case-count metrics.”
Continued non-essential travel advisories and restrictions “offer little hope of recovery this summer,” ACTA said.
24,000 agents face unemployment, bankruptcy
What’s even more concerning is the diminishing of federal support this month, which includes reductions in the CEWS, CERS and CRB benefit programs.
ACTA estimates that some 24,000 travel agents will be at risk of unemployment and bankruptcies as a result of the cutbacks in benefits.
“Federal support programs have been vital to travel agencies, travel agents and independent travel agents, with the majority experiencing over 95 per cent revenue losses compared to 2019,” ACTA noted. “Over 800 store-front travel agencies have closed since the start of the pandemic, and travel agent businesses have laid off or furloughed 63 per cent of staff, despite federal support programs.”
“Travel agencies have been operating at a loss since the beginning of the pandemic,” Paradis said. “Without continued full federal support for at least the summer, many will close. Businesses can only survive monthly losses for so long.”
Even if the demand for travel increases as a result of the relaxed restrictions, travel agencies will have continued monthly losses, ACTA said.
Businesses, at the same time, continue to manage government-mandated ticket refunds and future travel credits for “no revenue.”
“Travel agent businesses need clear guidance from the federal government on when travel advisories and restrictions will ease,” Paradis said.
She said the government must release “metric-based guidance” telling businesses when travel restrictions will be reduced and removed based on COVID-19 case counts and vaccination rates.
“And, until travel advisories are lifted and borders are fully opened, travel agencies, travel agents and the entire Canadian travel industry require continued and enhanced financial support,” Paradis added.
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