COVID-19: Travel industry wants to relax testing requirements

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Bridgitte Anderson, CEO of the Metro Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, said having to perform pre-departure PCR testing is “expensive” and “cumbersome” for travelers.

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Travel industry stakeholders in Vancouver have called on the federal government to drop the pre-departure PCR testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers coming to Canada, saying it is hurting current and future hotel and conference bookings. .

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“In fact, the federal government’s own expert panel does not recommend this approach. They said it wasn’t necessary for fully vaccinated travelers, ”said Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, referring to the expert advisory group on COVID testing and screening -19 from Ottawa.

The panel report calls for eliminating pre-departure PCR testing and testing for fully vaccinated travelers 10 days after arrival, but says “for monitoring purposes administer PCR testing on arrival.”

The recent reopening of the land border with the United States was a welcome step, but Anderson stressed that having to perform pre-departure PCR tests was “expensive” and “cumbersome” for travelers.

She estimated costs of up to $ 800 to $ 1,000 for a family of four to obtain the necessary pre-departure PCR tests that are currently required.

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“The additional cost of a PCR test makes the trip to Vancouver more expensive. This makes us less competitive with all the destinations in the world competing for the fully immunized traveler, ”said Karen Soyka, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Destination Vancouver.

While local and domestic travelers have so far supported local tourism, “travelers from the United States report nearly double what a domestic traveler spends at our destination, and other international visitors spend nearly three times. more than a national traveler, ”Soyka said. .

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She said that in 2020, 193 different business meetings and events booked for Vancouver were canceled.

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“It was because of where we were at the time,” Soyka said. “But what we need to do now is bring this business back to our destination.”

“More than others, BC’s hospitality industry relies heavily on international travel,” said Mike Macleod, director of the BC Hotel Association.

“The deadline and as far as these groups and events go, they have to book, in some cases – the bigger the event, the longer the deadline – two, three, four, five years,” Macleod said.

“And despite the wide availability of vaccines and a stable number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country, many of our members face another winter season of staff cuts, low incomes and decision-making. foreign guests to stay at home. “

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Mike Macleod, Director of the BC Hotel Association, speaks at the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable on November 10, 2021 in Vancouver.
Mike Macleod, Director of the BC Hotel Association, speaks at the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable on November 10, 2021 in Vancouver. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /PNG

“We continue to tread through the province at about 50 percent occupancy. We are about to enter a ski season. We have a lot of hoteliers in the interior, the Kootenays, areas like that. They want to welcome the Americans again, for example. They want to take advantage of potentially excellent conditions at the start of the season. But they’re nervous about asking those guests to come over and make a last minute decision because those barriers are in place.

Asked to respond to the federal government by saying that now may not be the right time to remove the need for PCR testing for public health reasons, Macleod said: “We have been extremely patient as a community of people. ‘business. You look around other sectors that are thriving. I have passed several film crews on the way here today. There are businesses that thrive. We know that certain sectors of the economy are growing. Our industry did not. We are in a kind of stagnation.

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