Coronavirus: Montreal tourism industry wants consistency on interprovincial travel

FILE: Tourists walk around in Old Quebec City  on Thursday, July 26, 2018.
FILE: Tourists walk around in Old Quebec City on Thursday, July 26, 2018. Raquel Fletcher/Global News

Open or closed borders? Quarantine mandatory or not?

At the dawn of the summer season, the rules governing interprovincial travel remain unclear, said the tourism industry, which urges Ottawa and the provinces, including Quebec, to clarify the rules of the game and open borders.

Otherwise, the scars are likely to be sharp for this sector completely paralyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the grouping of the Round Table on Tourism in a six-page letter sent to Quebec Premier François Legault and his counterparts from other provinces.

“Urgent measures are therefore necessary to prevent the effects on the economy and jobs which will prove to be permanent if the situation is not corrected,” said the group in its letter.

The 30 signatories, including leaders of air carriers like Air Canada, tour operator Transat A.T., hotel chains Marriott and Germain, as well as business and tourism associations like Tourisme Montréal, also questioned the Trudeau government last week.

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READ MORE: Quebec premier promises aid for hotels feeling impact of pandemic on tourism

Since international tourists and business customers are not likely to attend this year, the industry wants a clear framework for interprovincial travel in the hope of being able to take advantage of the months of July and August to prepare for an already difficult autumn.

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“We have to be able to reach all possible customers. This will be crucial,” explained during a telephone interview on Tuesday, the co-founder and co-president of the Germain Hotels chain, Christiane Germain, who is among the signatories of the letter.

According to the most recent data from the Quebec Tourism Industry Alliance, the sector employed 402,000 workers and about 30,160 companies. In addition to the letter sent to Mr. Legault, the industry is also requesting an assistance plan from the Quebec government.

To get through the crisis

Greater “consistency” could both “save the tourism season” and give the industry time to prepare to ensure that safety protocols are followed, the letter said.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Quebec allows small interior gatherings, Montreal restaurants given green light to reopen

“Tourism has been clearly underestimated in the recovery, deplored the President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal, Yves Lalumière, on the phone. Every day counts for the industry. Today, it is not clear if you can go to Toronto. We’re not talking about tourism and we went in mid-June. ”

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Currently, some provinces have very strict rules. Even if border controls will be relaxed in New Brunswick from June 19 to allow owners and those with family to enter the province, a quarantine of 14 days will be mandatory.

At Groupe Germain, activities continued in 13 of the 18 hotels in the chain despite the pandemic. The occupancy rate is slowly approaching the 10 per cent mark, according to Ms. Germain. There is therefore no shortage of rooms to accommodate visitors from other provinces.

With regard to health issues, Ms. Germain argued that since cleanliness is one of the “business cards” of the sector, hotels are already well prepared.

“There are new sanitary procedures, but this is not Chinese for us, launched the leader of the Germain Group. In normal times, we already have staff dedicated to maintenance in our establishments.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Montreal’s tourism to take a massive hit in revenues due to COVID-19 pandemic

Last year, Montreal attracted more than 11 million tourists, according to data from Tourisme Montréal, which predicts that the pandemic will deprive the metropolis of about 10 million visitors. The lack of a clear framework could also continue to have effects on business tourism until 2021 since several companies will be reluctant to make reservations in advance, warns the grouping.

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By the end of April, 70 of the 140 conferences planned for Montreal by the end of the month had been canceled due to the pandemic, Tourisme Montréal reported.

Business tourism is raking in a wide net, since it includes, for example, conventions bringing together professionals as well as events such as the National Hockey League (NHL) draft — which was to take place later this month in the metropolis, but which has been postponed.