N.L. tourism industry pushing for July 1 reopening

·4 min read
The tourism industry is pushing to re-open domestic borders by Canada Day as wage subsidies, CERB and EI claims will soon run out.  (Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/YouTube - image credit)
The tourism industry is pushing to re-open domestic borders by Canada Day as wage subsidies, CERB and EI claims will soon run out. (Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/YouTube - image credit)
The tourism industry is pushing to re-open domestic borders by Canada Day as wage subsidies, CERB and EI claims will soon run out.
The tourism industry is pushing to re-open domestic borders by Canada Day as wage subsidies, CERB and EI claims will soon run out. (Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism/YouTube)

Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism industry is pushing for the provincial government to follow through on the recommendations of the premier's advisory council on tourism and open the province's borders to the rest of Canada by July 1.

Last week, Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, Destination St. John's and a group representing the province's airports each called for domestic tourism to resume by Canada Day.

Heather McKinnon, chair of Destination St. John's, says many in the industry are struggling to stay afloat.

She says re-opening to Canadian tourists any later than July 1 would have a devastating impact on the industry, which injected about $1.4 billion into the province's economy annually before the pandemic.

"I have to be honest, everybody is barely hanging on. And it would be very tough to go through another summer like last year because the wage subsidy is being scaled back in July, and that has been a lifeline for so many operators," she said by phone Sunday, adding that CERB and EI claims will also soon run out.

The province's tourism report recommends allowing Canadian tourists to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador once 75 per cent of the province has one vaccine dose and 10 per cent has the second shot. They also want tourists to receive a negative COVID test two to three days before their arrival.

Heather McKinnon, Chair of Destination St. John's says the tourism industry can help the province recover from the economic crisis the pandemic has inflicted on the province because it employs approximately 20,000 people.
Heather McKinnon, Chair of Destination St. John's says the tourism industry can help the province recover from the economic crisis the pandemic has inflicted on the province because it employs approximately 20,000 people.(Sherry Vivian/CBC)

"We're not just in a public health crisis right now. We're in an economic crisis," said McKinnon. "And our industry is certainly one that can assist in that because we employ 20,000 workers and we're a $1.5 billion industry."

July 1 also holds significance to Hospitality NL chair Brenda O'Reilly, because it's the unofficial start of the tourism season.

"We support getting things open as soon as possible," O'Reilly wrote in a news release issued Friday.

"We have been asking, and our hope is that they are listening."

O'Reilly said a firm reopening date would give businesses a solid target for planning as they get ready to reopen.

McKinnon agrees and said it's not sustainable for operators to rely solely on travellers from Atlantic Canada, since they make up only about 11 per cent of the province's market.

"We actually need access to the other Canadian provinces and principally Ontario," she said.

Tammy Priddle is CEO of the Deer Lake Airport Authority.
Tammy Priddle is CEO of the Deer Lake Airport Authority.(Colleen Connors/CBC )

Meanwhile, Tammy Priddle, CEO of Deer Lake International Airport and member of the tourism council, said having a plan in place sooner rather than later would be better for all parties as other provinces begin their reopening process.

"Now might not be the time to travel, but now is the time to plan for our safe reopening," Priddle said in a news release Thursday.

"The tourism industry, our airports and our airline partners need to know our province's plan for a safe re-opening once our population completes phase one and two of the provincial vaccination plan, which is only weeks away."

McKinnon is also advocating for increased air access to the province and a return of more direct flights to Toronto, to act as a gateway to Europe and other bring travellers from other destinations.

"We're not saying open up today. We're saying open up when 75 per cent of the population has their first vaccine and 10 per cent has the second, and that people that are coming in will be vaccinated," she said.

She said the industry is not recommending a lifting of public health guidelines, like distancing and masks, or increasing restaurant capacity.

Premier Andrew Furey said during Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing the province would be ready to reveal it's reopening plan next week.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting