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Canada extending restrictions on non-essential international travel until July 21

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Canada is extending its border restrictions on non-essential international travel for another month.

The extended restrictions will include travel between Canada and the United States. The previous order was set to expire on June 21, it will now expire on July 21.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair made the announcement on Twitter on Friday morning.

Blair says the government is “planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians,” and further details will be provided on Monday.

Blair says the government is “planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians,” and further details will be provided on Monday.

The accelerated vaccine rollout in Canada is adding pressure to at least partially reopen the U.S. border after a fifteen-month shutdown.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada has yet to meet the vaccination targets to safely open the border when asked why the restrictions were extended once again.

“We are looking forward to getting back to normal as quickly as possible,” said Trudeau during a Friday morning virtual news conference from Rideau Cottage. “But we’re not out of this pandemic yet, we’re still seeing cases across the country and we want to get them down.”

Trudeau has previously said that it would take 75 per cent of Canadians with their first dose and 20 per cent of Canadians with two doses before restrictions can be lifted.

“We are sticking with our principle of doing everything necessary to keep Canadians safe even as we move forward on loosening restrictions in a responsible way,” said Trudeau.

“That’s what I talked with the premiers about last night and I can tell you there is tremendous focus on making sure we are doing this as quickly and safely as possible.”

Trudeau has also added the caveat that the outbreak needs to be at a stage where minor flare-ups can handled without risk of spreading more broadly.

The decision garnered immediate criticism from some American lawmakers, including the two Congressmen who co-chair the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group.

Western New York Democrat Brian Higgins and Michigan Republican Bill Huizenga decried the lack of transparency around the border talks as a disservice to residents on both sides of the border to see loved ones and renew business ties.

“While the arrival of vaccines in record time has been a modern marvel, the inability of the U.S. and Canadian governments to reach an agreement on alleviating border restrictions or aligning additional essential traveler classes is simply unacceptable,” said the statement from duo.

Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest employers, called for a clearly articulated plan to reopen the border safely “so that friends and families can be reunited and businesses can welcome back travellers.”

Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the policy should be based on whether a traveller is vaccinated, not on nationality. He noted how France now allows Canadians and Americans to visit, which makes it easier to travel abroad than within this country and to our closest neighbour.

“We are the deer caught in the headlights, unable to move,” Beatty said in an interview. “What the government is doing flies in the face of science, of economics and good public policy.”

The government has already laid out its plans to lift restrictions for certain travellers arriving to Canada by air.

It says the first step will be to allow people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and who are permitted to enter the country — to forego mandatory hotel quarantine.

Travellers will need to have been fully vaccinated 14 days or more before they arrive in Canada. The only vaccines that will be accepted will be those approved for use in Canada.

People will still be required to have a negative PCR test before boarding their flight to Canada and will still need to be tested upon arrival. People will be expected to quarantine until they get their negative test result back.

The federal government says it is confident the that airports in Canada will be prepared to start accepting an influx of travellers when the borders start to reopen for non-essential travel.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the government has been in contact with airlines and airports about the plan but says reopening may not happen as soon as the restrictions expire.

In a panel discussion on Thursday, Canadian tourism groups say tens of thousands of jobs are on the line and many businesses are relying on a tourism season this summer.

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Travel & Escape

Opinion: Are we ready for the tourism rebound?

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Canadians are ready for the borders to be re-opened and will be flocking to sun destinations this winter like never before. The number of people who have said that they are ready to “get out of Dodge” and “fly the coop” is an indication that there is a pent-up demand for travel and excursions that has been bolstered by a two-year sabbatical from vacations of any semblance. 

While Canadians are going to be heading south, we can expect some of our citizens as well as those from other nations to be looking to Canada for their adventure holidays. When the requirements for the two-week quarantines are lifted, we will be seeing a quick rebound of tourism as other countries who have already lifted their restrictions have seen. 

But are we ready?

In 2019, tourism contributed $105 billion to the Canadian economy. Tourists from outside of Canada spent over $16 billion dollars.  Those numbers were down considerably in 2020 and it is only natural that many people in the industry suffered as a result of the effects of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

While some folks, fearful of the spread of variants, believe that the borders should never be re-opened, the reality is that to save our tourism industry and the economy, we need tourist traffic from outside of Canada as well as interprovincial travel. As Canadian and foreign tourists start their migration towards our tourist and nature attractions, there is some hesitancy about the readiness of the industry to manage the coming tsunami of people.

Hit harder than many sectors, the tourism industry has been affected by the pandemic in ways that other industries haven’t. The closure of attractions, fairs, tour bus companies, sporting events, concerts and community events with any semblance of a large group has forced workers in this industry to look for jobs elsewhere to survive. As a result of this migration of talent there will be many tourism related businesses that will have difficulty scaling up to meet demand.  According to Statistics Canada, 32 per cent of accommodation and food service companies expect that attracting workers is going to be an obstacle for them this year.

Even if you have some warm bodies to fill your positions, having well-trained staff will remain a problem for many tourism and food service companies. Most business leaders in the industry understand the result of having improperly trained staff working in positions serving the public. The consequences of poor customer service can be long lasting and devastating. Unfortunately, as a result of the constant opening up and shutting down scenarios that have been seen in the economy over the past 18 months, most operators have been reluctant to increase the staffing levels that will be necessary to meet demand. The consequences will be that there will be no other option but to have staff that are not fully trained or optimally equipped to take care of the flood of vacationers.

In order to adjust to the coming demand, tourism-related businesses will need to be prepared to hire and train new employees to promote and deliver their services. This should include systematization of training, hiring and onboarding processes to enable companies to get up to speed quickly when the demand starts.  

While tourism deserves to have their days in the sun and profit from increased business, we need to recognize as Canadians that it takes a country to host visitors and we need to encourage and support those people in the industry who have been hit so hard.

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Travel & Escape

COVID-19: Tourism bookings start increasing as B.C. opens up

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Tourism in B.C. is restarting but don’t expect it to be the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While B.C. Ferries is welcoming recreational travellers and relaxing its mask requirement at terminals, face coverings will still be mandatory on board whenever you’re not in your vehicle.

Several Indigenous tourism businesses and locations that were closed to visitors are planning to reopen July 1.

Other tourism businesses are welcoming back visitors but won’t be in a position to handle big volumes because of a lack of staff, said Anthony Everett, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island.

“Everyone needs to travel with a great deal of patience,” Everett said from Nanaimo. “Most businesses are running at a fraction of capacity of what they did prior to COVID.”

Many tourism sector workers have left the industry and found work elsewhere, Everett said. Particularly hard hit are restaurants that can’t find kitchen workers and companies doing tourism-related activities such as kayaking.

He said the benefits of tourism won’t be evenly distributed.

Last year, Victoria struggled all summer long and while bookings for accommodation have increased, some of the city’s restaurants are only open for lunch, others only for dinner.

“This is all going to take time to build up,” Everett said.

“Frankly, I think it will take years. This summer, bookings are going up, that’s what we’re been waiting for. It’s not going to be the exact same experience you were used to prior to the pandemic. I hope people remember and recognize that.”

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Travel & Escape

Mountain biking the Sea to Sky Trail

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With the 700-metre granite dome of the Stawamus Chief as a backdrop, my friend, Ken, and I climbed on our bikes in Squamish and began pedalling north. Our destination was Whistler, an uphill trek of some 80km that we hoped to cover in two days.

It would be easier to ride the opposite way—from Whistler to Squamish—because it’s downhill. But it wouldn’t be the Sea to Sky Trail if we rode that way. Besides, how hard could an elevation gain of more than 600 meters be?

I have driven the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler many times. It’s arguably one of the best drives in Canada, but when I learned about the Sea to Sky Trail, I knew I needed to experience it on a bike. It’s a slower pace, and largely away from the highway, so it would allow us to appreciate the journey—the valleys, river gorges, lakes, and forests—in a way you can’t in a car.

While the Indigenous peoples of the Coast Salish and Interior Salish have used this corridor as a historic travel and trade route, the idea of a multi-purpose Sea to Sky Trail was first imagined in the early 1990s. But given the geographical and funding challenges, it’s only been in the last decade or so that the vision of the 180km trail from Squamish to D’Arcy, north of Pemberton, has been realized.

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