Non-essential travel into Canada resumes as restrictions further relaxed, Calgary airport lauds safety effort

International travellers are once again able to visit Canada as the federal government has reopened the door to non-essential trips by fully vaccinated foreign nationals.

The new rules are now in effect across the country.

Immunized travellers will have to show proof of their government-approved vaccinations, present a negative test result from within 72 hours of travel and they must show no signs of virus symptoms.

Previously, international travellers were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The rule remains in effect for returning Canadians and permanent residents who are not fully vaccinated.

The Canadian border opened to fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents for recreational purposes in August.

This is all part of the government's phased border reopening plan.

A spokesperson for the Calgary Airport Authority says, despite the reopening to international travellers, they expect fewer people will be taking trips through the airport in September as August was peak summer travel season.

"We have been working closely with our airline partners to ensure the safe return of air travel and continue to encourage travellers to check the airline schedules before coming to the airport – and, of course to always leave plenty of time to go through screening checkpoints," said Dean Paddock, communications and stakeholder engagement with the Calgary Airport Authority.

Airport officials recommend allowing extra time for screening upon arrival as lineups are expected to be a bit longer.

Health experts believe it could help tourism without posing a large health threat.

"If everybody in a place is vaccinated, the risk is much less," said Dr. Christopher Labos, a McGill University cardiologist and epidemiologist. "Vaccination, masks, the more we can do then the more we can suppress the spread."

American land crossings remains closed to Canadians for non-essential travel purposes and the closure will remain in effect until at least Sept. 21.

IMPACT ON ALBERTA TOURISM

CTV caught up with people waiting on their loved ones arriving from Gatwick, England at the Calgary International Airport on Tuesday, many who were relieved and eager to see their families.

“(We're) really excited!” said Stewart Attwood who came from Manitoba. “We’ve waited to so long, it’s been like a year of planning.”

It was big hugs all around when Attwood’s cousin and wife arrived, who shared that the process to prove your vaccination status and negative COVID test wasn’t easy to maneuver.

“Yes, difficult, long drawn out and all the tests and make sure we have everything and everything in the right place at the right time,” said Andrew Lake.

The Attwoods had to travel from Winnipeg to pick up the Lakes at the Calgary International Airport because it’s one of five Canadian airports accepting fully-vaccinated international travellers.

“So, we’re actually going to utilize the fact that we had to come to Calgary to drive back through the provinces to show them Banff and Lake Louise and Drumheller and a bit of Canada,” said Attwood.

The hope is the changes in travel restrictions will see more people travel around Alberta but Darren Reeder with the Tourism Association of Alberta said it unfortunately comes too late in the season to make a difference to the industry.

“I think it will have positive impact as people are set to plan with longer-term intentions to travel Canada but this is very late in the season," Reeder said. "Families are back in their fall routines already, so it’s really going to be a missed opportunity for a lot of travelling families this fall.”

Reeder said the pandemic cost Alberta’s tourism industry more than a billion dollars since it started, adding it will likely won’t be until 2022 when many businesses begin to recover, as international travellers often plan far ahead to visit Canada.

“We absolutely need that to happen next year (because) there is just too many businesses that have been deeply impacted," he said. "They can’t survive through to next summer if there isn’t a clear line of sight that people are going to start to plan for next year."

However, he added that relaxing travel restrictions could be a boon for ski operators.

“We do have some confidence that the international markets reopening could be good for ski operators," he said. "We have enough time to prepare for winter that this could be a very good window of opportunity.”

The first thing ski operators and tourist-driven businesses will have to do is find people to work for them.

Brett Ireland owns Banff Ave Brewing and said it’s been particularly difficult to recruit staff without foreign workers able to come in Alberta.

“Typically we see a lot of people from Australia," Ireland said. "We sure miss having them here so we’ll see (how it goes). I’ll stay optimistic at this point and hopefully this fall going into the ski season we see a return of that.

“But it’s hard to say," he added, "because there’s so much uncertainty right now and travelling in itself is more complex than in the past.”