Tourism operators call for an end to land border restrictions
Northern Ontario's tourism organizations and operators sent a message to the Canadian government Wednesday morning: they want an end to pandemic restrictions.
Members are calling for an end to random testing, the use of the ArriveCan app and the ban on unvaccinated travellers.
"Although the border was fully opened to vaccinated traffic in August of last year, there remains uncertainty that is making that is making Canada far too challenging for travellers," said Laurie Marcil of Nature & Outdoor Tourism Ontario.
Marcil said tourism businesses in northern Ontario, which rely heavily on American dollars, have seen more than $100 million in cancellations since April.
They said the No. 1 reason is border restrictions.
"The vast majority of guests to northern Ontario arrive through our land-border crossings," said Marcil.
"Right now, the number of American guests travelling through our land-border crossings is at 50 per cent of what it was pre-COVID."
"We're asking for the government to level the playing field in terms of access -- you know we can travel to the EU, UK and other countries," said Destination Northern Ontario's David MacLachlan.
Tourism operators like Bob Garson said they know this isn't going to be a popular call with everyone, adding he's seen a shift in some local attitudes towards tourists.
"Our greatest fear is that we're going to have guests that we've had ever since we owned the business in the last 20 years, they'll break that chain and no longer come -- even when there are no restrictions," said Garson.
Another frustrated tourism operator called it "a flu."
"It's not fair, it's not right and it's not following the science -- in northern Ontario we face the very real prospect of losing businesses in this period of recovery than we did in lockdown," said Tourism Industry Association of Canada's Chris Bloore.
When asked whether there was a happy medium -- a solution that could protect people but open up the borders -- Marcil said that's on the government.
"I think we want to present to them the challenges we face … with not having those people allowed into the country," said Marcil.
So far, there's been no concrete indication from the government how long the restrictions will remain in place.