The removal of border crossing requirements cannot come soon enough for tourism operators in Northern Ontario.
Northern tourism operators have lost more than $100 million in revenue as a result of border crossing requirements such as random testing for COVID-19, vaccination and the use of ArriveCAN, according to a media release issued by the Northern Ontario Border Task Force in the tourism industry.
The task force consists of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO), Destination Northern Ontario and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.
Laure Marcille, Executive Director of (NOTO), strongly supports the lifting of pandemic border restrictions and requirements.
“Vaccination requirements, ArriveCAN and random testing are the three main reasons international tourists are choosing vacation destinations other than returning to Northern Ontario,” Marcille said in a media release issued Friday.
“This spring, these border requirements resulted in tourism businesses reporting over $100 million in cancellations. The Northern Ontario Border Task Force has been working with provincial and national partners for the past two and a half years to address economic issues and propose solutions for a limited border,” she said.
“Once these requirements are lifted, we will need the support of the Government of Canada to advertise to the world that Canada welcomes back all tourists.”
The open border to tourists is important, Marcille said, “because there are typically approximately one million visitors from the United States to Northern Ontario annually, spending $466 million.
“Tourism in Northern Ontario is a $1.6 billion industry that attracts 9.2 million visitors, supports 24,000 jobs and generates over $500 million in tax revenue.”
David McLachlan, executive director of Destination Northern Ontario, said the task force has been working hard for more than two years to continually reduce and remove border restrictions to protect the tourism industry.
“These measures have run out of steam and now Canada needs to align with the practices of other countries, level the playing field for tour operators and fully welcome all tourists,” he said.
“These remaining restrictions continue to prevent tourists from the United States from taking trips to Ontario, particularly through land ports, as the number of trips was roughly half of what it was in the summer of 2019. The closed border and continued border restrictions have hit Northern Ontario by -harder than the rest of the province over the past two and a half years, as roughly a third of Northern Ontario’s tourism is from the United States.”
Tourism Industry Association of Ontario President and CEO Chris Bloor said that in order for Ontario’s tourism industry to truly recover, “we must remove the last barriers to travel that severely limit the number of international travelers choosing to travel to Ontario. “
“It is time for Canada to follow the example of many of our G7 and international colleagues and repeal the vaccine mandates and end the mandatory use of ArriveCAN,” he said.
“We must always remain vigilant for any emerging threats, but there is still no scientific or public health rationale for these measures to remain in place, and every additional day they remain in place damages Ontario’s and Canada’s reputation as a leading global destination.” “
Bloor said while the time to lift the remaining border crossing restrictions is long overdue, at least tourism operators in Northern Ontario will be able to fully market to all fall and winter tourists.
“Removing the remaining border crossing restrictions will be a clear indication that Northern Ontario is fully open for business and all tourists are welcome.”