Tourism council's final report sticks to July 1 recommendation for reopening N.L. to Canada

·3 min read
Jill Curran, a spokesperson for the premier's advisory council on tourism, says a 45 per cent of respondents in a Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador survey said they won't be reopening their businesses at all if they can't open them this summer.  (Carolyn Stokes/CBC - image credit)
Jill Curran, a spokesperson for the premier's advisory council on tourism, says a 45 per cent of respondents in a Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador survey said they won't be reopening their businesses at all if they can't open them this summer. (Carolyn Stokes/CBC - image credit)
Jill Curran, a spokesperson for the premier's advisory council on tourism, says a 45 per cent of respondents in a Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador survey said they won't be reopening their businesses at all if they can't open them this summer.
Jill Curran, a spokesperson for the premier's advisory council on tourism, says a 45 per cent of respondents in a Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador survey said they won't be reopening their businesses at all if they can't open them this summer. (Carolyn Stokes/CBC)

The premier's advisory council on tourism released its final pitch Wednesday to convince the provincial government to reopen Newfoundland and Labrador's borders to the rest of Canada by July 1.

The committee's final 25-page report looks into the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry in this province, and offers 11 recommendations — with some small changes since the interim report in March — on how to save the sector from another lean year.

The committee recommends testing be part of entrance requirements to the province, without quarantine, until all Phase 1 and Phase 2 priority groups are fully vaccinated. It also recommends a staged reopening including the Atlantic bubble and a June 1 opening to vaccinated Canadians, including those with one dose and a negative COVID-19 test before departure.

"Opening to Canadian domestic travellers will be vital to our sector. We know that 86 per cent of the visitors that Newfoundland and Labrador gets annually are from Canada," committee spokesperson Jill Curran told CBC News.

"So many businesses have had to make heartbreaking decisions last year about not reopening, and the thought of not being able to open for two years would be just devastating."

Curran said 45 per cent of respondents in a Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador survey said if they can't open their businesses this year, they won't reopen again at all.

Travel cases and safe reopening

During Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald noted the majority of N.L.'s influx in cases come from travellers.

The council based its July 1 recommendation on national COVID-19 modelling and the country's immunization plan. The report says businesses should submit a reopening plan to HNL, which would work with public health authorities to ensure best practices are addressed in each plan.

Brenda O’Reilly, chair of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and a member of the committe, says July 1 marks the beginning of peak tourism season.
Brenda O’Reilly, chair of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and a member of the committe, says July 1 marks the beginning of peak tourism season. (Gary Locke/CBC)

"We're aware of what's happening in other places in the country, but as those lockdowns are in place and there's concerted efforts on vaccinations in those hot spots. We're seeing those numbers decline," Curran said.

"We're saying that it's going to be a lot different looking by July 1."

Premier Andrew Furey told reporters during Wednesday's briefing the province will be making recommendations based on guidance from public health to ensure the future of the tourism industry isn't jeopardized by acting too quickly.

"That said, as we've said on the panel many times, this summer will look very differently. As to what it will look like, we're still trying to sort that out," Furey said.

Brenda O'Reilly, chair of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and a member of the council, told CBC News July 1 is an important date for tourism operators, as it unofficially marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation until Labour Day weekend.

O'Reilly said July 1 is the start of the peak season for tourism operators, and businesses missing out on any customers for any amount of time July means losing money. With inoculation numbers climbing, she said, it's time for the industry to get back to business, with public health guidelines in place.

"We really need July 1 to bwe when we open up to the Canadian public, and what a great day to do it — Canada Day," she said.

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