Now that the United States has reopened its land border with Canada, leaders in British Columbia’s tourism industry are calling on the federal government to scrap the PCR test requirement for cross-border travel in time for the holiday season.
Travellers five years of age and older, regardless of citizenship or vaccine status, must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada.
Those in B.C.’s tourism sector say the requirement is keeping international visitors and business travellers away.
“Moreso than others, B.C.’s hospitality sector is heavily dependent on international travel,” Mike Macleod of the B.C. Hotel Association said. “Many of our members are facing another winter season of staff cutbacks.”
Karen Soyka with Destination Vancouver, an organization that provides support to the city’s tourism industry, said international travellers are critical to the local economy.
“Travellers from the United States bring in nearly double what a domestic traveller spends in our destination, and other international visitors spend nearly three times as much as a domestic traveller,” Soyka said.
“Business travellers to Vancouver make up 13 per cent of our overnight visitors and contribute approximately $2.6 billion in tourism revenues.”
Soyka noted that PCR tests, which range in cost from $150 to $300 per test, can be a pricey proposition.
“The added cost of a PCR test makes travel to Vancouver more expensive — that makes us less competitive,” she said.
“With every destination in the world competing for the fully vaccinated traveller, we need our government’s support to reduce the obstacles, so that we can welcome back international visitors.”
Last week, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the policy is being “actively looked at.”
“Just to reassure everybody … we are looking at that quite carefully,” she told a briefing on Friday.
–with files from The Canadian Press