No specifics from prime minister on when travel restrictions with U.S. could lift

There’s still no word on whether current border measures prohibiting non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. could come to an end after the latest extension of the restrictions expires this month.

Speaking at an announcement in Coquitlam, B.C., on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not offer specifics when asked about a re-opening timeframe.

“I can understand entirely why people are so eager to see the end of this pandemic and move forward. We are not there yet. We’re getting much closer,” he said, and added they don’t want to have to backtrack.

“We’re going to continue to work with the White House and our American partners on co-ordinating as much as possible, but we will make sure that every step of the way, the safety of Canadians and the strength of our reopening is first and foremost.”

The border restrictions are currently set to remain in place until July 21 at the earliest.

Some in the travel industry have their sights set on later this year, when it comes to anticipating a return to more typical cross-border travel. Discount airline Flair just announced an expansion into the U.S. beginning this fall. President and CEO Stephen Jones said six American vacation destinations will be available, including Palm Springs and Las Vegas.

“We’re going on sale now for the flights beginning at the end of October, the beginning of November, and so we believe that by that time the restrictions will have eased sufficiently,” he said. “Canadians really want to travel. They’ve been cooped up inside with this pandemic for so long.”

Flight Centre Travel Group spokesperson Allison Wallace said not being able to travel across the border for more than a year has definitely created pent-up demand.

“We’re already seeing huge demand for Hawaii in particular, come the winter months,” she said. “The majority of people have really been anticipating that they’ll be free to travel across the border closer to the end of summer and into the early fall, so more bookings for end of August, September, October.”

She said the travel industry is hopeful restrictions could be eased sooner, but it’s a “cautious optimism."

“I think that the industry understands the need to be safe,” she said. “We need consumer confidence there, we need to open up and not go back to being restricted again.”

Meanwhile, a $50-million emergency grant program for struggling tourist attractions and tour bus companies in B.C. has received more than 100 applications, which are currently being evaluated. Major “anchor” attractions in urban areas can receive up to $1 million. Attractions in rural areas and tour bus operators can receive up to $500,000. 

While the re-opening date is still an unknown, the prime minister made it clear how he felt about unvaccinated tourists being able to come to Canada.

“I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen for quite a while,” he said. “All our conversations now are about what support we can give and what ease we can offer to vaccinated travellers.”