B.C.’s tourism minister is expressing confidence in the province’s vaccination plan and what it could mean for U.S. tourists coming to Canada.
Melanie Mark says the decision concerning the borders is up to the federal government and will be based on vaccinations. But that vaccination plan is further ahead than expected.
“In this moment in time I am feeling way more confident in our vaccination plan. We are ahead of where we thought we would be,” Mark said.
“I am feeling really good. But at the end of the day it will be up to the federal government. I think they have been talking abut two vaccinations, 75 per cent.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the federal plan for the land border crossing will focus on “fully vaccinated” Canadians when the time comes to begin relaxing travel restrictions.
The U.S.-Canada border is closed for non-essential travel until at least June 21.
Ottawa is currently in conversations with the U.S. about the border and internally considering whether quarantine hotels for incoming travellers are working as intended, and at what point the growing number of partially and fully vaccinated Canadians might be able to begin travelling without those barriers.
“I understand how eager people are to put the pandemic behind us and be able to travel once again.… We see the number of cases dropping, we see the situation improving tremendously,” Trudeau said.
“We’ll have more announcements to make on measures that may be eased for those who’ve had both doses in the weeks to come…. Easing of restrictions will be focused on Canadians who are fully vaccinated.”
Currently 74.2 per cent of adult British Columbians have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while just eight per cent are fully vaccinated.
British Columbia’s, and specifically Metro Vancouver’s, tourism sector relies heavily on U.S. travellers.
But Mark is quick to point out there needs to be confidence on both sides of the borders before recreational travel is allowed. B.C. is suggesting Ottawa consider a plan that has specifics around immunization rates and cases to allow the sector to play for a potential easing of restrictions.
“Our approach is to have a plan that is mirrored in our plan. Our plan gives some clear metrics and is guided by data and science,” Mark said.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge says U.S. visitors make up about 33 per cent of summer visitors.
“We are very much missing our American visitors. We want a plan as quickly as possible,” Capilano Suspension Bridge VP Sales & Marketing Sue Kaffka said.
“We really believe the borders should be open and Americans should be able to travel. There are a lot of rumours going around and we hope those rumours are true.”
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada on Wednesday called on the federal government to open the Canada-U.S. border before the summer tourism season is lost.
The mayors of Canadian border cities say Ottawa has signaled it could start easing COVID-19 restrictions as soon as June 21 or June 22.
Victoria Pedicab Company owner Andrew Capeau says American visitors are crucial to keeping his business running.
“The vaccine brings with it a lot of hope and pent demand visitors will come visit our island,” he said.
— With files from Amanda Connolly
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