As Tourism Week in Canada kicks off, it’s still unclear where Canadians will be able to travel this summer. The American border remains closed until at least June 21, international travel restrictions are still being strictly enforced and some provinces still discourage visitors from other parts of the country.
Despite the uncertainty, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) says that vaccinations are the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Seeing our American neighbours and people from the U.K. already beginning to take vacations, the feeling is that it won’t be long before Canadians will join them.
However, before we all jet off to foreign locales, TIAC is asking Canadians to take a special pledge to support tourism in Canada. They want to drive more domestic tourism business to Canadian travel firms which have lost billions of dollars during the pandemic.
“We are calling on Canadians to take the 2021 Tourism Pledge to travel in Canada, when restrictions are lifted,” says Beth Potter, the President and CEO of TIAC in a release. “This is an invitation to come together as a country and support our local tourism destinations, businesses and employees.”
If Canadian consumers decided to shift two-thirds of their planned international holiday expenditures towards domestic tourism, it would make up for the estimated $19 billion shortfall currently facing the visitor economy, per a recent report by Destination Canada. It would also help sustain 150,000 jobs and accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector by one year.
“We understand that everyone is eager for some much-needed vacation time and we are calling on Canadians to plan their future travel within Canada,” said Marsha Walden, President and Chief Executive Officer, Destination Canada.
For now, that probably means staying in your home province, but things could start opening up as the summer progresses and more people are fully vaccinated.
Newfoundland & Labrador
The advisory council to Newfoundland’s premier filed a report last week that called on the provincial government to reopen the province’s borders to the rest of Canada by July 1.
The committee recommends that until vulnerable groups in the province are fully vaccinated, visitors be tested for COVID-19 before arrival although they won’t have to quarantine. The next stage would be to re-open the Atlantic bubble then allow partially vaccinated Canadians to enter as of June 1, although they must present a negative COVID test before arrival.
In Nova Scotia, lockdown restrictions that have limited travel have been extended and the province’s premier has said they could last until at least June 1.
In one Global News report, tourism operators were pessimistic that this year’s tourism season would be worse than last summer when the Atlantic bubble partially saved their season.
Prince Edward Island
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King told CBC News he would announce reopening plans on Thursday.
“I think you will see our measures that will include testing coming into our province through all of our points of entry as an added level of protection for Islanders. As more and more of us get vaccinated, we can back our way out of that. That’s going to be part of the plan,” he said.
The premier said the province hopes to allow visitors from the Atlantic region “really soon” and from the rest of Canada in the later end of the summer season.
New Brunswick is keen to welcome tourists back to the province, at least from the rest of Atlantic Canada.
“We are hoping to open the Atlantic Bubble in July to get the season started,” said Carol Alderdice, the President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick. “Our operators have been exceptional at implementing protective measures against the spread of COVID-19 for over a year and we are ready to greet our guests.”
Last year, the province introduced the NB Travel Incentive program which offered rebates for residents who travelled within the province.
The province has said the program will return this summer, but has released no further details.
“As long as all things continue to improve in relation to COVID-19, we will look forward to announcing the dates of the summer Explore NB Travel Incentive Program,” Morgan Bell, a communications officer with Tourism, Heritage and Culture told CBC News.
The Quebec government is offering discounted provincial park passes as well as subsidized activities and vacation packages to encourage local tourism.
“The pandemic has had negative consequences for tourism businesses. These initiatives are a way for the government to revive the industry,” Quebec’s Minister of Tourism Caroline Proulx told CBC News. “I honestly believe that we will have a better tourist summer, especially with the return of festivals.”
The province’s Explore Québec program offers travel packages at a minimum of 25 per cent off along with other offers at Quebec Getaways.
Canada’s largest province announced its reopening plan last week that sets June 14 to restart some activities that would allow a certain amount of tourist traffic to resume, with further restrictions being eased in July and a near return to normality in August. However, there’s concern that those dates aren’t set in stone as they are conditional on certain vaccination and caseload milestones being met.
The province’s border remains closed with neighbouring Quebec and Manitoba to non-essential travel until June 2, but there have been noises that it could be extended, possibly until the June 14 date that is part of the reopening plan.
The tourism picture for Manitoba this summer is unclear, but there’s some optimism that the province will beat back the third wave and gradually begin reopening, at least to local visitors.
Destination Canada projects the province’s tourism businesses will lose about $400 million this year, but that’s a best-case scenario if tourism is permitted by July. Things are bleaker if they remain closed until the end of the summer, reported CBC News.
Many provinces are modelling their reopening plans after Saskatchewan’s “road map,” which itself is inspired by the actions of well-vaccinated jurisdictions like Israel and the U.K.
As destinations and activities reopen throughout the summer, Tourism Saskatchewan predicts a good summer ahead with about 75 or 80 percent of the activity it would see in a normal year.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel which is something I think the industry and public sees that, “ spokesperson Jonathan Potts told CKRM. “If people continue to get vaccinated and things continue going in Saskatchewan’s favour, we could see a fairly normal summer this year.”
Alberta is still battling its third wave of COVID infections, but premier Jason Kenney has said the provinces will soon outline its reopening plan.
“It’ll be a careful plan that will get us to a great Alberta summer as long as Albertans continue the huge momentum to get vaccinated,” he said.
In an interview with Global News, the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta’s Darren Reeder said he fully expects the province to reopen travel within the coming weeks, but doesn’t think it will see any international travellers.
He hoped that the provincial government would offer tax credits or vouchers to incentivize staycations in order to overcome that shortfall and the association would do its part to encourage Albertans to discover what their province has to offer
“There are things in your own backyard and adventure is something you create with your own ingenuity and your own creativity,” he said.
B.C. premier John Horgan has also promised a reopening plan this week which would outline under what conditions travel restrictions will be lifted.
Tourism Industry Association of B.C. chief executive officer Walt Judas told CBC that it wants restrictions lifted on non-essential travel that have ravaged the province’s tourism industry.
Judas said the association wants provincial travel reopened this week, followed by increased interprovincial visitors and ultimately international tourists.
Yukon has closed off its borders to domestic and international travel for much of the pandemic, but now its plan is to allow anyone who is fully vaccinated to visit and enjoy the territory’s immense beauty.