Canadian and US politicians and travel and tourism industry leaders gathered for a virtual panel discussion on the re-opening of the border between the two countries.
The message from representatives on both sides of the border couldn’t have been more direct — the Canadian and US governments need to put together a science-based plan that allows for a safe reopening and that plan is needed now.
Hotel Association of Canada president and CEO, Susie Grynol told those attending the virtual panel session that it’s time to transition away from the current measures to a border policy that is rooted in science.
And HAC’s boss made it clear that what the industry needs is a “smart, evidence-based plan,” because without a plan in place “we will lose a second summer.”
Tori Barnes, executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, said that each month the Canada-US border remains closed the US economy loses $1.5 billion in possible travel exports.
But Barnes noted that USTravel is pleased to see that the US government has now established task forces with key markets, including Canada, to work on restarting international travel, but she added that she wasn’t sure the ‘urgency’ was there.
US Congressman, Chris Jacobs – representing the 27th Congressional District – told attendees at the session that “we need to understand that we can reopen and reopen safely as we come out of this pandemic.”
Jacobs introduced the Northern Border Reopening Transparency Act in the US Congress in early June, with the legislation requiring the Biden administration to report back to congress on what they’re doing to get the Canada-US border reopened.
The congressman made it clear that “we need to be laser-focused on this,” and he added “I’m open for ideas. I’m willing to do whatever I can to move this forward.”
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP Beaches-East York, observed that the government has asked a lot from the tourism and hospitality sector and the industry understood that was necessary.
But, Erskine-Smith said that with vaccination rates now rising, it’s not necessary for the industry to be shut down and the border can be open to fully vaccinated individuals and if they need to be tested, then test them.
TIAC president and CEO, Beth Potter told the audience that every day she gets calls from business owners who have been directly affected by the border closing.
Potter pointed out that over half a million people have been displaced from their jobs. Family run businesses have had to tap into savings and now face years of paying back this debt.
“Every day the border remains closed,” Potter observed, “we’re adding costs to the pocket books of these businesses. So, we need a plan urgently. We can do this. If the NHL can go back and forth across the border, why can’t we do this.”
If the metric for reopening the Canada-US border is that 75% of Canadians have first doses and 20% have their second doses, Potter said “Let’s use that modeling to define a plan so that these businesses can start their reopening.”
HAC’s Grynol added that public opinion [or reopening the border] is shifting and while it is “going to take a lot of heavy lifting, I can’t think of anything more important.”
Congressman Jacobs observed that the more “we can do to elevate this issue, the more it will move things along.”
For Potter, it’s about strength in numbers. The message is the same – get the border open.
“If we need to do it in a phased way, let’s do it in a phased way, but let’s get it open,” TIAC’s boss concluded.