ITAC Joins Call To End Pre-Departure Testing

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) — along with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, the Tourism Industry Association of BC, the Vancouver Board of Trade and local Vancouver businesses – joined the call to urge the federal government to remove unnecessary and non-science-based obstacles to international travel immediately.

For its part, the Roundtable is calling on the government to remove the pre-departure rapid antigen test for fully vaccinated travellers by April 1, when the regulations will be updated.

The group argues that Canada’s border rules are not keeping Canadians safe. Since the pandemic’s beginning, only 1% of COVID-19 cases in Canada have been related to travel. The COVID-19 positivity rate in communities reached ten times the infectious rate at the border throughout the last pandemic wave.

Infectious Disease Dr Zain Chagla suggested that “the likelihood of picking up a positive case at the border is like finding a needle in a haystack.”

While the federal government’s updated travel measures brought Canada one step closer to reopening, the federal government’s decision to maintain pre-departure testing requirement forced Canada out of step with other international jurisdictions that have reopened to fully vaccinated travellers.

Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, pointed out that: “Indigenous tourism in Canada is fueled by international visitors, 65% of indigenous tourism’s sales revenue was generated from international travellers in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the indigenous tourism sector – we are currently operating at 30% of our 2019 capacity.”

Henry continued: “This sad reality is having a significant impact on indigenous communities across Canada. Overnight our sector went from employing 40,000 workers to 7,000.”

As a result, Henry said that ITAC is “calling on the federal government to reopen Canada to foreign travellers by immediately removing all remaining travel restrictions. There’s no reason to kill another summer travel season.”

Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, pointed out that: “Tourism is a massive economic driver in our province, and many businesses in Vancouver depend on international travellers. The federal government’s travel restrictions are still a significant deterrent at a time when we need to remove all unnecessary barriers to travel and make our region a destination again. Since the start of the pandemic, Vancouver has seen only a fraction of the 11 million overnight visitors it welcomed in 2019.”

Said Anderson: “It is time for the federal government to remove obstacles to travel, including the rapid-antigen test. Our tourism sector depends on it.”

Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia, said that: “Last week, I was encouraged to see the government make some changes to Canada’s travel rules. However, the government’s changes did not go far enough. These changes don’t provide the certainty necessary to attract families and travellers back to British Columbia. It’s time to follow the rest of the world and remove unnecessary testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and let the tourism industry get back to work.”

Claire Newell, President of Travel Best Bets, observed that: “Very few industries have seen have been impacted like the travel and tourism sector. Not only were we the first industry impacted by COVID-19, but it is also quickly becoming clear that we will be last.”

And Newell concluded: “My travel agency continues to see cancellations, as well as hesitancy in people to book travel due to the confusion around the rules and fear of getting stuck abroad. We need to remove testing for travel – it’s the only way to get international visitors back to Canada.”