Several people who play a prominent role in the tourism trade are urging the federal government to hold off on calling an election until this country’s badly battered tourism sector has a better idea of what awaits it.
Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, told a Thursday virtual conference that “governments tend to shut down and don’t want to make profound decisions” when an election is underway.
Beatty said “there’s an urgent need for a reopening plan” for tourism as the critical summer season is advancing and tourism businesses “cannot afford to wait any longer” to learn what the federal government is planning when it comes to likes of reopening borders to international visitors.
Tourism businesses that have shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic will need time to restart, he warned.
There’s speculation that Prime Minister Trudeau is eager to call an election because of favourable polls.
But Beatty said the federal government should first let those in travel know what’s in store for their industry, adding “businesses simply can’t afford to wait any longer…We need that plan today and not after an election.”
He said Canada is “quickly becoming one of the most vaccinated places on the planet,” another reason to restart international tourism.
Beatty said the seriousness of the current situation is underscored in the case of Ottawa, which normally generates $2.2 billion a year in tourism revenue. Last year $1.4 billion was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Susie Grynol, president of the Hotel Association of Canada, said science suggests Canada’s borders can be safely reopened to international travellers. “Yet here we stand with borders closed to double-vaccinated travellers.”
Joe Kowalski of Wilderness Tours, Ottawa River which offers the likes of kayaking and jetboating in Ontario and Quebec, said his company lost $7 million last year and it will take it years to recover.
Kowalski – who hasn’t drawn a pay cheque in over a year – lambasted government figures who are making decisions regarding the likes of border closures “for not having a clue on how the real world works.”
Ross Meredith, general manager of The Westin Ottawa, also reiterated the importance of attracting summer visitors, adding, “Canada does not have a lot of palm trees.”
The hotel industry has been “totally devastated” by coronavirus,” he stated.
Thursday’s presentation was part of the Canadian Tourism Roundtable, a cross-Canadian coalition of leaders in the tourism and travel sector – including representatives from airports, airlines, hotels, and chambers of commerce across the country – who are “committed to working together to restart the sector smoothly and safely.”
Travel and Tourism is a normally $102 billion sector, employing millions of Canadians across the country and accounting for 2.1% of the country’s gross domestic product, the coalition notes, adding it advocates for a safe and prosperous tourism and travel sector across Canada.