A group of industry leaders including tourism operators, restaurant owners and businesspeople in St. John’s are calling on the federal government to encourage domestic travel again, after over a year of travel bans and restrictions.
At a press conference held outside Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village on Tuesday, a group member Todd Perrin said it is high time Canadians to return to visiting Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Local businesses are suffering unnecessarily because of confusion and uncertainty over how safe domestic travel is,” said Perrin, Mallard Cottage’s owner and chef.
On July 1, N.L started permitting visitors to enter the region without self-isolating, as long as they are fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated with a negative PCR COVID-19 test.
The region is relaxing more restrictions later this summer as part of its reopening plan, however, the group, part of the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, wants more consistency in regulations across the nation, each territory has its own rules for travel and visitors, and P.M Justin Trudeau recently said every region will additionally be able to choose whether to use vaccine passports for domestic travel.
The group is calling on the federal government to create a “comprehensive” plan to encourage travel within Canada. What that plan would look like is unclear, however, the group wants Trudeau to personally encourage Canadians to start moving again.
Whereas over 80% of eligible N.L residents have received at least a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, only over 30% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.
AnnMarie Boudreau, Chief Executive of the St. John’s Board of Trade, said that businesses in the tourism sector have taken steps to modify operators and protect visitor safety.
“Businesses have done their part. But now it’s time for government to stand up and do theirs,” she said.
More support needed
Although business owners appreciate the backing of local community members, Perrin said, they need tourists from outside the region so as to remain afloat.
“The only solution to our issues are for people to start moving again.”
Members of the group say the inconsistent regulations across Canada can cause potential tourists to feel hesitant to travel.
“We need, really, a consistent plan across the country, so that people feel that it’s safe to travel,” said Cathy Duke, CEO of Destination St. John’s.
At the moment, Perrin pointed out, it varies across the country.
“The regatta is not going ahead but the Calgary Stampede is. So there’s a dichotomy in that that I think people need to reckon with,” he said. “We need to look across the country and have a message that is clear: what is safe and why it’s safe, and grey areas are really going to be things that are going to significantly impact the ability for the tourism sector to rebound from this.”
Barry Rogers, owner of tour operator Iceberg Quest, said whereas his own business is starting to rebound, he wants to see additional support from the federal government for the tourism sector.
“The threat of loss, it’s enormous,” Rogers said.