Travel agents cry foul as federal government rolls out new COVID-19 test rules

airline passengers

A group representing independent travel agents in Canada says the federal government has thrown their industry into a ``tailspin'' with new rules requiring a COVID-19 test before Canadians are allowed back into the country from international travel.
    
The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors says in a statement the timing of Transport Minister Marc Garneau's announcement last Thursday, New Year's Eve, could not have been worse because many agents had closed their offices for the holiday long weekend.
    
It says customers who had planned international travel during the holidays were not given sufficient opportunity to cancel or adjust their trips.
    
Calgary travel agent Janez Law, whose agency specializes in arranging travel to Asia, says a client in the Philippines is planning a six-hour bus trip to the capital, Manila, to get the required test to ensure she is allowed back into Canada when she returns on Thursday.
    
Pat Littlejohn, a co-owner of Toronto's Wild Journeys Safaris in Africa, says clients already wary of taking trips to Africa because of its perceived quality of health care now say they have more reason to avoid travel because it could be very difficult to obtain a recognized COVID-19 test there.
    
The ACITA statement says most clients are willing to accept an additional cost related to travel during the pandemic but fear they could face ``being gouged'' to get the required testing.
    
The association was started last spring in part to lobby for government assistance for the industry due to challenges of the pandemic.