Travel industry wants restrictions lifted to encourage Canadians to book trips

Canadian airports are operating at only 40 per cent capacity for domestic flights and only 20 per cent for international trips compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) feels many Canadians won’t book a flight until there is a national vaccine passport and more travel restrictions are lifted.

“The sooner this gets done, the sooner it will help the industry recover," said ACTA board member Richard Vanderlubbe, who is also President of Tripcentral.ca. 

The federal government is working on a national vaccine passport, but currently passengers have to rely on their provincial vaccine documents.

Vanderlubbe said many people don't feel confident enough to book a trip, especially to an international destination with provincial documents and the travel industry fears another difficult year ahead.

“We are just not certain that a foreign country is going to recognize our provincial proof of vaccination," said Vanderlubbe. 

Vanderlubbe said many travel companies have had to continue working throughout the pandemic dealing with cancellations, rebooking trips and issuing refunds, while at the same time receiving hardly any new business and almost zero revenue. 

The Canadian Airports Council (CAC) represents more than 100 airports across Canada and agreed that one national internationally recognized vaccine passport would be easier for passengers, airlines and airports.

“What we have now is a patchwork of rules from province to province," said CAC President Daniel-Robert Gooch.

Gooch added “we would like to see digital proof of vaccinations that is nationally accepted standard around the country, but also aligned with what others countries are doing because people need consistency."

Now is a time when many Canadians start planning their winter holidays to sunny destinations, but travel agencies are concerned if there is confusion over passports, vaccines and testing people will just stay home. 

ACTA is also calling on the federal government to update travel advisories and either remove or update the terms “avoid non-essential travel” and “avoid all cruise ship travel” on the federal government’s website. 

“We have issues with the fact that it's a blanket (statement) it has no end and essential travel and non-essential travel were never clearly defined," said Vanderlubbe.

About 4 million Canadians also received mixed doses of vaccines and the travel industry says until there is clarity about their vaccination status many won't feel confident to book a trip fearing they could be turned back while travelling.

ACTA also said that testing for the coronavirus during the travel process can be onerous, confusing and expensive.

It says there needs to be a more uniform approach so people can feel confident their test results will be accepted if they book a trip. 

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