Those working in Banff’s hospitality and tourism sector are applauding the federal government’s decision to lift pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers entering Canada on April 1.
The official announcement came Thursday, and applies to travellers coming into the country through air, land or water though passengers may still be subjected to mandatory, random PCR testing at the airport. Unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated travellers still need to do testing and isolation requirements.
“Now the race is on to let the world back and we’re really thrilled today we’re able to let the tourism sector get back on it’s feet because it’s been the hardest hit sector and we’re very pleased to say as a government that Canada is open for business when it comes to the tourism sector,” said federal Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault.
Boissonnault made the comments while in Banff to meet with leaders in the hospitality industry on Thursday.
“We promised we would follow the science and open up the borders and that’s what we’re doing today and we expect that will help tourism businesses from coast to coast to coast to thrive,” he said.
Travel and tourism operators have been calling for the removal of negative tests for travellers and say it comes at the perfect time ahead of the peak summer travel season.
“The booking window is open right now. People are making the decision of where they are going for summer right now,” said Darren Reeder, executive director of Banff Lake Louise Hospitality Association and the board advisor for the Tourism Association of Alberta.
“They are making and have been making decisions to go elsewhere because there has been too much unpredictability about what cost and delays might be if they go to Canada.”
Reeder says for many businesses, the May to September summer window accounts for up to two-thirds of their income.
“It’s go time, we’re very excited ready to welcome our international visitors back,” he said.
The town of Banff was hit particularly hard by the pandemic and travel restrictions and according to the mayor the testing changes is a step forward in attracting people back to the tourist destination.
“It’s one of the most devastating moments in Banff’s history,” said Mayor Corrie DiManno. “For us a lot of it falls on housing and affordability to attract that labour force back.”
The tourism industry in Alberta doesn’t expect the visitor economy to return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2025 and hope to see more supports and incentives from the government to address the ongoing labour supply shortage in the industry to help speed up its recovery.