On November 4, 2021, I was invited to participate in the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa.
Canada’s Travel Rules Punitive for Middle-Class Families
• Mandatory pre-departure PCR testing for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers is proving prohibitively expensive for Canadian families
• Travel & Tourism Roundtable calls on the federal government to remove the pre-departure PCR test and amend the discriminatory child policy for travelling minors
November 4, 2021, OTTAWA – Together with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable (“The Roundtable”), speaking on behalf of families and the business community across Canada are calling on the federal government to remove unnecessary and non-science-based obstacles to international travel, such as the pre-departure PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers, that disproportionately impact average Canadian families. Further, the Roundtable is calling on the government to amend the discriminatory child policy for travelling minors.
For the average Canadian family, travel is becoming increasingly difficult. The burdensome cost of a PCR test can add over CAD 200 per person or an additional $800 for a family of four for a round trip cross-border flight. This fee is proving cost-prohibitive to many Canadian families. Unvaccinated minors travelling with their fully vaccinated parents are also unable to attend school, daycare and camp for two weeks after travel, potentially adding the cost of two additional weeks of private childcare, adding to the disincentive to travel. Until a vaccine for minors under 12 is approved, children should return to school using testing, not quarantine.
These policies were intended to be temporary and run counter to the recommendations made by the federal government’s COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel Report (“The Expert Panel”) in May of this year.
Many countries have recognized that easing restrictions for unvaccinated children is low risk, and they, therefore, exempt unvaccinated children travelling with fully vaccinated adults from any quarantine. For example:
• In France, the measures applicable to vaccinated adults also apply to any minors accompanying them, regardless of vaccination.
• In the United Kingdom, rules for fully vaccinated people also apply to travellers under 18 who reside in the UK or one of the listed countries with approved vaccination programs.
France, Portugal, Germany and the United Kingdom also recognize that requiring pre-departure and arrival tests for vaccinated travellers is redundant and have exempted fully vaccinated travellers from pre-departure testing requirements.
Although many had travel bookings lined up over the November-December period, the travel and tourism industry is bracing for cancellations, with Canadian families looking to either cancel or delay long-awaited winter trips and family visits.
The pandemic, vaccination status, and available science have changed; so too should the response and measures to keep Canadians safe while allowing the travel and tourism industry to re-open.
“Canadian families deserve to be treated equally when travelling. In France and the United Kingdom, children can travel with their fully vaccinated parents, making travel to see family and friends more accessible to the middle class. Many other countries have implemented science-based policies, including the exemption of fully vaccinated travellers from testing requirements. Canada should follow suit.”
- Perrin Beatty
President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
“The pandemic took a real toll on our family. We have been looking forward to bringing our children to visit family members across the border. We’ve done our part. My wife and I got vaccinated. But it is almost impossible for us to do this. The cost of the PCR test adds almost an additional $1000 to our trip, and then our kids can’t go to school for two weeks, resulting in additional childcare costs. We need the government to change the rules so we can see our loved ones again.”
- David Schwartz
Ottawa based Father of two
“The PCR test is a major barrier for middle-class families hoping to travel across the border. The result is that families simply aren’t travelling. The cost and inconvenience is too high, and until the federal government takes action to reduce the obstacles to travel, small Canadian tourism businesses like mine will not be able to recover fully.”
- Sheila Gallant-Halloran
Owner, Lush Life Travel
About the Canadian Tourism Roundtable
The Canadian Tourism Roundtable is a cross-Canadian coalition of leaders in the tourism and travel sector – including representatives from airports, airlines, hotels, and chambers of commerce across the country – committed to working together to restart the sector smoothly and safely. Travel and Tourism is a $102 billion sector, employing millions of Canadians across the country and accounting for 2.1% of the country’s gross domestic product. It advocates for a safe and prosperous tourism and travel sector across Canada.
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Sheila Gallant-Halloran, Owner Lush Life Travel
• Good morning, thank you for having me here this morning.
• My name is Sheila Gallant-Halloran, I am the Owner of Lush Life Travel, an affiliate of Vision Travel. I run a bucket list and adventure travel agency that helps families live a lush life through travel.
• As you can imagine the past 18 months have been a particular challenge for the travel and tourism industry.
• It has not been easy. From the agent or advisor to the operator, from the hotelier to the airline, everyone has been deeply affected. That said, as an industry we are strong – we have collectively been focused on rebuilding our industry to come back stronger and fill the demand of a population ready to get back on the road.
• We’ve spent buckets of time together at home for 18 months and now its time to do our bucket lists – travel and re-unite with family.
• However, as we enter this new phase of the pandemic, one characterized by mass-vaccination and low-case counts, I would have assumed that travel would already be up and running. It is not. And this is most particularly true for families.
• In pre-pandemic times, family travel accounted for about X percent of international Canadian travel – and that does not even include the United States. This market just simply has not returned. This is a fundamental problem for the sector both domestically and internationally.
• At the beginning of the pandemic this made sense, the science was clear. Today, the reason is less clear.
• However, I have a pretty good idea. Families like certainty when they travel. Families like booking certainty, cost certainty, and like to know what they can expect when they arrive at their destination and when they depart.
• The industry is back in a position where we can provide this certainty to our customers – however our federal government is making this difficult.
• Whether it be the cost-prohibitive pre-departure PCR test to return home, the discriminatory child policy prohibiting grandchildren from visiting down south, or just the unclear messaging – many families are just choosing to stay home.
• The results of these cost-prohibitive measures are reflected in booking rates. Although many had travel bookings lined up over the November-December period, the travel and tourism industry is bracing for cancellations.
• I am seeing cancellation after cancellation. And to that end, we need the federal government to intervene.
• It’s time for the rules to keep up with developments in science that will keep families safe while allowing them to travel.
• The pandemic, vaccination status, and available science have changed; so too should the response and measures to keep Canadians safe while allowing the travel and tourism industry to re-open. - THANK YOU