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

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims two more lives of Sunnybank Retirement Centre residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Okanagan Clinical Trials is looking at gut bacteria as a way of slowing down the development of Alzheimer’s. (Alzheimer Society of B.C. photo)
Okanagan study looking for volunteers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

The study is looking at how gut bacteria may help slow the disease

Penticton City Hall. (File photo)
City of Penticton seeking grants to fund public washroom improvements

The grant would fund washrooms at Gyro Park and Riverside Park

Oliver Elementary School
Former Oliver PAC treasurer charged with fraud returns to court

Belinda Yorke will be in court to fix a date for trial in February

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to reports of a structure fire on Valleyview Place Jan. 26, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
Fire snuffed in Vernon home

No visible smoke, flames from area of reported structure fire

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Kevin Lee Barrett pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his mother Eleanor Holmes on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (File)
West Kelowna man who beat his mom could be sentenced up to 9 years

Kevin Barrett entered a surprise guilty plea to the lesser charge of aggravated assault on Tuesday morning

Vernon now has an approved 13 cannabis shops in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon, the ‘Pot capital of B.C.’ greenlights two new stores downtown

Two more shops, within 240 metres, approved, despite neighbouring businesses opposition

11 more cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a cluster on Big White Mountain. Pictured above is TELUS park at Big White Ski Resort, Jan. 26. (Big White Ski Resort)
11 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

This brings the total case count to 225, according to health authorities in a Tuesday update

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

Two fibreglass bees were stolen from Vernon’s Planet Bee Honey Farm Nov. 22, 2020. (Facebook)
Stolen bee returned to Vernon honey farm

Two months after thieves buzzed off with two bee sculptures, public tips led police one of them

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Most Read