On Vancouver Island, pressure mounts to reopen Canada-U.S. border to tourists
As vaccination rates rise on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, so too is pressure to reopen the border to tourist travel.
Clipper Vacations CEO David Gudgel says there is a lot of pent up demand for the passenger ferry that connects Seattle and Victoria.
“We felt like it’s pressure behind a dam, and the dam is beginning to crack, and it may happen very quickly,” said Gudgel on Tuesday.
Meanwhile on the Canadian side of the border, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada launched a campaign Tuesday calling on Ottawa to lay out a timeline for reopening the border, and to allow recreational travel as soon as safely possible.
Paul Nursey, head of Destination Greater Victoria and a director of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, says a roadmap for when the border will reopen is important for the industry to start its planning.
“Our association thought the time was right to start to press the government more concretely to try and get a roadmap and a plan,” said Nursey on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Trudeau was asked about rumours the Canadian border might partially open to tourists from the U.S. by June 21. “We have no announcements to make today,” said Trudeau.
Still, political pressure has been mounting from south of the border, where more people have second doses, and large gatherings are already occurring at events, including sports competitions.
The Canadian Press quoted Trudeau Monday acknowledging that the government was looking at a phased approach to reopening the border, perhaps by July or August.
What is clear: tourism businesses on both sides of the border need international tourists to survive.
“We have had to lay off many people, including about 20 folks from Victoria,” said Gudgel, noting that the company would be “elated” to be able to bring back those folks after the border reopens, something it’s now hopeful may happen sooner than the fall.
Nursey added that American travellers spend more money than domestic travellers.
“The U.S. traveller is a much more lucrative traveller in terms of average spending — almost twice as much compared to the Canadian traveller,” he said.
While previously the fall was seen as the earliest date for the international border to open, Nursey now says an August opening would be a “win” for the industry.