Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions are expected to expire on Sept. 30 with no plans to renew them.
While there hasn’t been anything officially announced, Global News learned from multiple government sources that the Liberal government was drafting plans to ease border restrictions and make the ArriveCAN app optional for travellers. Some people in the travel industry are thrilled.
James Bogusz, president and CEO of the Regina airport, said they’ve been asking for these restrictions to get dropped for a while.
“Virtually anybody involved with the what I call the travel economy has been asking the federal government for many months to repeal the final travel restrictions,” Bogusz said.
Bogusz added that the ArriveCAN app was very contentious.
“We’re hearing it from residents in Saskatchewan who have used the app, some with success, some not, and some frankly just don’t want to have to use a piece of software to come back through the border. They’re used to using their passport.”
Final confirmation from the government is still awaited, but Bogusz said he’s looking forward to some changes.
“This is welcome news for YQR, and welcome news for anyone in the industry. And we’ve been advocating for this for quite some time.”
He added that he’s hopeful to see the mandates get dropped, as well as mandatory masking.
“Canada has really lagged behind the U.S. in terms of passenger volume rebound. You have to remember that the United States in the month of September, they actually had a few days where, through their government checkpoints (TSA), they actually saw above 2019 pre-pandemic levels, whereas here in Canada in January we were at a paltry 30 per cent to pre-pandemic levels.”
He noted that during the summer Canada has seen as high as 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, but noted that we are far from where the industry wants to be, and that the airport helps drive the southern Saskatchewan economy.
Global News went to the Saskatoon airport to get passengers’ thoughts on the restrictions being eased. Everyone spoken to said it was a good idea.
“We just came back from a trip. I went through the Arrive Canada, and it was kind of complicated figuring it out,” said Ron Mathers.
He added that his information didn’t show up properly on the app, and expects things to be easier for airport staff, saying there will be less of a backlog.
Dorothy Badger said she never had trouble herself with the restrictions, but said other people must have found it a hassle.
“There will probably be a lot more people travelling,” Badger said.
She noted that mandatory masking would be something to keep up though.
Adrian Ninaber said he believed the pandemic was over, and that we need to get on with our lives.
He noted that the ArriveCAN app could be difficult for some people.
“For people that aren’t technically savvy, it’s a huge issue in terms of really getting things done.”
He added that these restrictions have hit tourism hard.
— with files from Aaron D’Andrea