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GO SOMEWHERE ELSE

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) reports that it has learned that Canadian officials are telling people, in writing, not to travel to Canada. TIAC has received a copy of a written response sent by the Immigration Section at the Canadian Embassy in Bogota, Colombia telling those requesting Canadian visitor visas to take their business elsewhere. (Go to http://tiac.travel/cgi/page.cgi/_zine.html/TopStories/News_Release_-_Is_Canada_Open_for_Business_ to see a copy of the letter). The letter states: “For your information, Canadian External Service officials are presently on strike. All Canadian visa offices in the world are working with reduced capacity and the processing times of visa requests are uncertain for the moment. As such we recommend that you look at other options for your trip that do not include a stop in Canada.” (translated text of message from Canadian Embassy in Bogata, Colombia) TIAC president and CEO, David Goldstein said: “The job of Canadian officials working abroad is to serve the interests of Canadians. For these same people to be brazenly dissuading potential travellers from visiting Canada is outrageous and undermines the economic interests and livelihoods of small business owners and hard working Canadians.” TIAC estimates that the cost to the Canadian travel and tourism sector alone will be upwards of $280 million this year as the strike action by federal public service union employees enters its second month. In previous years Canada has experienced double-digit, year-over-year growth in visitation from this region. Beyond tourism, other sectors such as colleges and universities are in a crucial period for processing foreign student visas for the Fall session. Said Goldstein: “This is the first real test of this government’s Federal Tourism Strategy. There has not been any public discussion of back to work legislation or allowances for replacement workers to process visa applications. To date the stand-off tactics from both sides are proving quite costly to the Canadian economy.” TIAC also notes that the federal government has made South America a key economic priority, signing numerous Open Skies and Free Trade Agreements in the region including Colombia. And those agreements require temporary travel permits to be processed without undue delay. “Despite all of the previous announcements, trips and fanfare to the contrary, Canada’s inaction on this important issue is cause for the world to question if we are in fact open for business?” concluded Goldstein. Go to http://www.tiac.travel for more.

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