B.C. businesses ready to welcome fully vaccinated international travellers

·3 min read
Starting Sept. 7, fully vaccinated international travellers will be able to skip Canada's quarantine requirements. (Laura Clementson/CBC - image credit)
Starting Sept. 7, fully vaccinated international travellers will be able to skip Canada's quarantine requirements. (Laura Clementson/CBC - image credit)

Starting Sept. 7, Canada's border is open to fully vaccinated international travellers, who will no longer be required to quarantine.

The relaxation of travel rules comes almost a month after Canada allowed fully vaccinated Americans to enter the country and skip quarantine.

Despite a fourth wave of infections that has seen COVID-19 case counts rise throughout the country, Canada is pushing ahead with its intention to ease travel restrictions. It's a decision that's welcomed by those in the tourism industry.

"It is a sign of hope," says Charles McDiarmid, managing director of the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, B.C.

He says the possibility of new and increased business is a big deal for many operations that rely on tourism.

"The travel industry has been among the hardest hit of all the industries out there," said McDiarmid.

Overseas travellers have always been an important part of the Wickaninnish Inn's business model, he says.

The Wickaninnish Inn
The Wickaninnish Inn

And ever since Canada announced the loosening of restrictions, McDiarmid says the luxury inn has seen an uptick in inquiries and bookings, predominantly from the U.K., Germany and France, even though the majority are booking stays for next summer.

As well, the fully vaccinated requirement instills a sense of ease in staff and other travellers, he says.

The team at Vancouver's Aquabus Ferries is also excited to welcome international customers after a tough year-and-a-half.

"It has been extremely challenging. The fatigue is definitely being felt across the company," said operations manager Jake Pratt.

He says about 50 per cent of the company's business normally comes from tourism.

"I'm super happy to see them come back, as long as they are double-vaxxed," said Pratt.

CBC News
CBC News

However, he says staffing shortages are a big concern — as they have been for many industries — especially if tourism numbers start to rise.

Relaxing restrictions during the 4th wave

With B.C. and the rest of Canada in the midst of the pandemic's fourth wave, there are concerns that now might not be the right time to forgo quarantine requirements for travellers.

On Friday, the province announced 671 new cases for a total of 5,872 people infected with the virus. As well, a total of 215 people are in hospital, with 118 in intensive care.

However, Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, is confident with the decision.

"We need to move forward and we need to do it in a safe way and in a way where we can measure very accurately whether this was the best step or not and then change our minds based on the results of that," said Conway.

With the relaxed restrictions, travellers still need to meet certain requirements:

Conway says health officials will conduct random COVID-19 testing on arriving travellers, as well.

"With all of the procedures in place, we should not be picking up very much COVID," said Conway. "If it's too high, then the whole process needs to be rethought."

Ranjeev Sandhu, president of Star Limousine, which services Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria, says business was down about 85 per cent during the pandemic. Since American travellers were allowed back into Canada in August, his business has seen a slight uptick.

The bulk of Sandhu's business is contingent on people arriving at Vancouver's international airport.

He says, in his experience, COVID precautions in place for travellers appear to be protecting the Canadian public.

"The testing regime seems to be working well," Sandhu told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition, on Tuesday.

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