People line up and check in for an international flight at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

People line up and check in for an international flight at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Travel industry ‘in tailspin’ as federal government adopts new COVID-19 test rules

There isn’t yet a list of approved testing agencies for the new regulations

The travel industry in Canada has been thrown into a “tailspin” by new federal rules requiring a COVID-19 test before Canadians are allowed back into the country from most international travel, says the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors.

The timing of Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s announcement of the new protocol last Thursday — New Year’s Eve — could not have been worse because many agents had closed their offices for the holiday long weekend, the group said in a statement.

“The releasing of this new protocol in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve put most of our industry into a tailspin,” ACITA said.

“With no warning in place, people who had chosen to travel over the New Year were not given the opportunity to cancel or change their trips.”

ACITA is a new association started by independent travel agents last spring in part to lobby for government assistance for the industry due to challenges caused by the pandemic.

It says the testing move “seems to be having the opposite effect” from helping the industry recover.

The federal Conservatives are calling for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons to consider a study of the testing requirement, with multiple Liberal ministers asked to testify.

The change in Ottawa’s policy left travel agents like Calgary’s Janez Law scrambling to get in touch with clients who are on trips or planning to take trips.

“People don’t like it very much but what can you do, you have no choice if you want to come home, right?” she said, adding it’s difficult to provide advice to her clients because of the lack of detail in Ottawa’s plan.

She said a Canadian client now in the Philippines said she will have to endure a six-hour-plus bus trip to the capital, Manila, to get the required test to ensure she is allowed back into Canada when she returns on Thursday.

Law said such tests are expensive in most of Asia, adding the test in Manila is expected to cost $150.

Her agency, Travel Far and Beyond, specializes in arranging trips to Asia but has experienced a 90 per cent decline in volume due to the pandemic.

Law added she personally supports the idea of more testing of travellers if it makes Canada safer.

The new rules will further discourage customers who are already wary of travelling to Africa during the pandemic because of its perceived quality of health care, said Pat Littlejohn, a co-owner of Toronto’s Wild Journeys Safaris in Africa.

“We sell trips to Africa. It actually might be very difficult to obtain one of these tests in Africa before returning to Canada. This just might be an impossibility,” she said.

“To put that requirement on just seems to just shut down travel, basically.”

READ MORE: Feds weigh cutting COVID-19 sickness benefit for Canadians who have travelled

Quick tests for COVID-19 at the airport would be a much better way to proceed, she said, adding many of her clients have put their plans “on hold” until the pandemic situation clears up.

The ACITA statement says most travel clients are willing to accept an additional cost related to travel during the pandemic but fear they could face “being gouged” to get the required testing.

“Our clients, those who have travel booked, are now looking to cancel their trips, not only due to the uncertainty that arises should they have difficulty getting a test within the allotted 72-hour time frame, but also due to the additional costs associated,” the group said in its statement.

It added that travel agents have been unable to tell passengers set to depart Canada this week whether testing locations they’ve identified will be included in Ottawa’s list of approved facilities since that list hadn’t been published.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirustravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tom Lennox finds peace when he runs in the Cumberland Forest. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly a year. Photo supplied
Cumberland runner nears 366 consecutive days on the trails

Cumberland resident Tom Lennox has been running a minimum of five kilometres… Continue reading

Courtenay’s Ace Brewing Company’s Jet Fuel IPA was chosen for second place in the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. Photo submitted
Courtenay brewery takes silver medal at Canadian Brewing Awards

“It’s huge - they are the biggest awards in Canada that you can get (in the brewing industry).”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board is concerned about having to fund more than just hospitals like the one in the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona board worried over funding more than hospitals

Island Health points to seniors care to reduce demand at acute care sites

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Courtenay area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

40 Knots Winery recently completed a major project on their vineyard terrace by installing 360-degree glass panels for year-round use.
Comox winery aims for year-round experience with glass-surrounded terrace

40 Knots Winery recently completed a major project on their vineyard terrace

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 is featured at the Feb. 5-13 World Community Film Festival. Photo supplied
First We Eat celebrates resourcefulness of Yukoners

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 celebrates the ingenuity, resourcefulness… Continue reading

Most Read