Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island is an internationally famous destination. The park has reopened, but travel to the region is still restricted. (Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News)

Cross-Canada group calls for reopening of travel, tourism

B.C.’s summer restart still faces COVID-19 obstacles

“It’s time our governments allow Canadians to travel freely,” says an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all premiers as the B.C. government prepares to lift its in-province advisory to stick to essential travel only in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter is signed by a business and tourism leaders across the country, including Greg D’Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C., Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, hotel owners and airport executives from Halifax to Prince George. It urges a return to not just travel within Canada but internationally as well.

The letter notes that Australia, Germany, France and Italy have started to reopen borders with countries deemed safe.

“The mandatory 14-day quarantine and complete closure to all visitors from abroad is no longer necessary and is out of step with other countries around the globe,” the letter states. “Not all countries and regions are risky, and we shouldn’t treat them as such.”

The open letter is the latest of a series of distress signals sent by tourist-dependent businesses as summer approaches and many operators fear they won’t survive the pandemic restrictions. B.C. Premier John Horgan has indicated the province is preparing to lift a travel advisory that features highway signs advising “essential travel only.”

RELATED: B.C. on track for in-province travel, Horgan says

RELATED: Temperature checks coming at Canadian airports

Horgan and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix have repeatedly indicated in recent days that they consider U.S. travel to be a non-starter at this stage, with coronavirus infections on the rise in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona.

Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have also signalled that B.C.’s low infection rate means travel within the province will soon be promoted via a Destination B.C. marketing campaign.

Henry has stressed that non-essential travel is up to local authorities, including Indigenous communities that have indicated they don’t want infection risk from visitors to remote locations such as Haida Gwaii.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council voted unanimously June 9 to impose strict conditions on their traditional territory along 300 km of the west coast of Vancouver Island. They include availability of coronavirus testing for residents and screening and 14-day self-isolation of non-residents before travel.

“Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council strongly opposes the opening of the Canada border for duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and until Nuu-chah-nulth leaders advise otherwise,” President Judith Sayers said.

Another issue for tourism operators struggling to restart is the reluctance of employees to return to work, with many collecting up to $2,000 a month from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. In its June 10 bulletin to members, the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. offers human resources advice to recall employees.

The association also reports that only one in four of its member businesses see themselves as able to restart without B.C. moving to phase three of its reopening plan. That could come as early as mid-June.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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