For the Canadian travel and tourism industry, there is good reason to celebrate today.
News that the federal government is dropping the requirement of a pre-arrival COVID-19 test (either a PCR or Rapid Antigen test) for arriving travellers has long been called for by the industry and those calls have finally been heard.
The announcement of the removal of the pre-arrival testing requirement was made by federal health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, transport minister, Omar Alghabra and tourism minister, Randy Boissonnault.
While travellers arriving in Canada will no longer need to present test results as of APRIL 1, 2022, they will still need to be fully vaccinated and they will also still have to use the ArriveCan app to provide officials with the required information on arrival in Canada.
Arriving travellers will also be randomly selected for testing.
For unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers, they will still have to test and quarantine as is currently required by the federal government’s current border rules.
Air Canada was quick to respond to the federal government’s March 17 announcement, with the carrier’s vice-president, government and community relations, David Rheault stating that: “Today’s announcement by the federal government is excellent news for the entire travel and tourism industry, which are important contributors to the Canadian economy. People are eager to travel and reconnect with their loved ones, and the end of pre-departure testing will provide travellers with more certainty, allowing them to plan their next trip with more confidence and without the worry of incurring additional costs.”
Rheault pointed out that: “Canada now joins other countries around the world in reopening and we look ahead to the summer travel season. The removal of pre-departure testing requirements will continue to accelerate and stimulate the recovery of Canada’s travel and tourism industry, which we are committed to help rebuild through the restoration of our global network.”
Sunwing has also reacted to the removal of pre-arrival testing, saying in a statement: “We commend the Government of Canada’s decision to remove the pre-departure testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers effective April 1, 2022. Today’s announcement comes as welcome news for the travel industry, which has weathered a difficult two years due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company noted that: “With soaring vaccination rates across the country, the announcement is a natural step forward and will undoubtedly support our industry’s rebound. Sunwing is appreciative of the ongoing collaboration from the Government of Canada and senior officials throughout the pandemic, and would like to thank the government for recognizing that testing requirements can be removed for those who are fully vaccinated while continuing to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.”
And the statement concluded: “We look forward to brighter days ahead and working closely with the agent community to help make even more customers’ vacation dreams come true under our wing.”
What the Ministers Said
In making the announcement, health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos said that: “Adjustments to Canada’s border measures are made possible by a number of factors, including Canada’s high vaccination rate, the increasing availability and use of rapid tests to detect infection, decreasing hospitalizations and growing domestic availability of treatments for COVID-19. As vaccination levels and healthcare system capacity improve, we will continue to consider further easing of measures at the borders—and when to adjust those measures—to keep the people in Canada safe.”
While transport minister, Omar Alghabra pointed out that: “Decreasing COVID-19 case counts, coupled with Canada’s high vaccination rates and strict vaccination requirements for travel, have set the stage for the next steps in our Government’s cautious and calibrated approach to safely easing the measures at our border. Lifting the pre-entry testing requirements for travellers to Canada will make it easier for Canadians to safely take advantage of emerging opportunities for personal and business travel, as Canada’s transportation system recovers from the pandemic.”
Minister of tourism and associate minister of finance, Randy Boissonnault observed that: “After a challenging two years, we all want the Canadian economy, including the tourism sector, to rebound and grow. We in government have been listening to the concerns of tourism businesses across the country. We are confident that, thanks to all that Canadians have done to protect one another, we can now take the next step forward and remove testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada. The economy, workers and tourism business owners will benefit from this next step in opening Canada up once again to the world.”
The Nuts & Bolts
- Canadians can continue do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and boosted, using masks where appropriate, self-isolating if they have symptoms and self-testing if they can.
- Travellers should check if they are eligible to enter Canada and meet all entry requirements before heading to the border. In addition, some provinces and territories may have their own entry restrictions in place. Check and follow both the federal and any provincial or territorial restrictions and requirements before travelling to Canada.
- All travellers entering Canada, including returning residents, continue to be required to input their mandatory information in ArriveCAN within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada.
- Unless otherwise exempt, all travellers eligible to enter Canada who do not qualify as fully vaccinated will continue to be tested with COVID-19 molecular tests on arrival and on Day 8, while they quarantine for 14 days.
- Travellers may experience delays at ports of entry due to the public health measures. Travellers should have their ArriveCAN receipt ready to present to the border services officer. Before heading to the land border, travellers should check Canada Border Service Agency’s website for estimated border wait times at select land ports of entry.
While the removal of the pre-arrival testing requirements certainly removes a significant drag on travel – for both Canadians leaving the country and for foreign visitors wanting to visit – the industry still faces a number of new challenges.
The need for continued financial support for an industry that was the first and hardest hit by the global pandemic definitely needs to continue, but still to be determined is the impact that rising fuel prices, rising inflation and Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine will have on travel.
On the other hand, it is St. Patrick’s Day and the industry – after two long years – has something to celebrate.