Travel agencies say the Canadian government's plan to end quarantine hotel stays for some returning travellers is a big step for the travel industry, but air industry associations say more changes are necessary for a full rebound to take shape.
Starting in early July, the federal government said citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad will no longer have to undergo a quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated with the approved vaccines in Canada and test negative for COVID-19.
Fully vaccinated travellers will also no longer have to spend three days in a hotel quarantine, but the government said the plan depends on COVID-19 levels continuing to decrease in the country.
Allison Wallace, a spokeswoman for the travel agency Flight Centre, said quarantine measures — particularly the hotel quarantine program — had been the only thing holding back many travellers from booking new trips.
"It’s definitely big positive news for the travel industry ... it’s the No. 1 deterrent for people planning to travel right now," said Wallace.
"With it being removed at some point in the very near future, we fully expect to see a lot more people travelling soon."
However, Wallace said the government will have to provide more information around how COVID tests will be administered.
Questions also remain around what kind of documents or apps will be acceptable as proof of vaccination and whether the government will drop its advisory against international travel, Wallace said.
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country's largest airlines, said it "acknowledges" the change, but that it falls short of expectations for a full travel restart plan.
“Unlike many other countries including all other G7 nations, the federal government has yet to provide a clear restart plan outlining when and how major travel and border restrictions will be removed," said Mike McNaney, President and CEO of NACC, in a statement.
"As vaccination programs increase rapidly and jurisdictions around the world provide consumers and industry with a clear path forward, we must do the same."
NACC also said the government announcement didn't acknowledge that a federal advisory panel advocated for the elimination of hotel quarantine for all travellers, reduction of quarantine for partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers, and the use of rapid antigen testing.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Airports Council said the government needs to stop funnelling all international flights into four Canadian airports.
Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca, agreed that there needs to be a long term plan that gives travellers a sense of confidence.
"I think we need a vision from the government, a co-ordinated well thought through vision that says we may see outbreaks and variants, and how is that going to be handled?" said Vanderlubbe, who pointed to the UK's colour-coded system around the safety of travelling to certain countries.
He said the UK system is a little complicated, but "at least there's a mechanism that's there where people can fully understand that even if they book travel and it's green today, if something changes, another restriction may come back into affect."
Still, Vanderlubbe said he expects to see an influx of new bookings in late summer and fall, as more Canadians are able to confirm the date they'll receive a second vaccine dose.
Both Vanderlubbe and Wallace said they are glad to see an incremental approach from the government, rather than a quick opening of the border.
"To be honest, for the industry it's better that a reopening is slow and progressive and moves forward, rather than situations where we’re open then closed, open then closed," said Wallace.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2021.
Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press