Tourism industry discusses future border re-opening

Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

The logistics of a border re-opening was the topic of discussion during an industry feedback call on December 15. The Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO)call was hosted by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO).

The discussion centred around four main topics: ensuring travellers reach their destination after crossing the border, putting a process in place to ensure maximum safety, the method of tracking border crossings and how pilot programs are to be addressed.

In early December, the federal government announced that the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed until Jan. 21 2021 in an effort to keep cases of COVID-19 from rising.

This means more tough times for businesses, especially in northwestern Ontario. Many rely on American tourists, and have not had business all summer. With essential workers beginning to get vaccinated there is hope that there will be a chance for those businesses to get back on their feet next summer.

Many in the discussion were concerned about how to prepare, with no knowledge of next steps from the government.

The roundtable discussion opened with how to ensure that those crossing the border go to their intended destination. This is assuming that whoever is crossing has either received the vaccination or that they have been tested and are not contagious.

Some suggested that the border could be used as a checkpoint for guests to check in with their lodge and confirm this will be their destination. There were also suggestions to have an app that tracks when they have crossed the border or another electronic way that those crossing can ‘check in’ when they have been cleared at the border.

There was a suggestion to use ArriveCAN which is an app used to provide travel information when entering Canada. This app is used for air travel but there was a suggestion to tweak the app to be used to track Americans that are coming from across the border.

Along with the idea of having an app, there was a large emphasis on having contact tracing and rapid testing at the border or a proof of vaccination card.

Several in the discussion said that they were willing to try any methods from buying groceries for their guests to prevent them from further coming in contact with places in the community in order to get business going, because they are worried that they are not going to survive another summer of no business.

Some questioned whether it is a good idea to have the border open to Americans before the general public of Canadians have been vaccinated, but on the other hand, not having customers is affecting their businesses greatly.

A lodge owner said it is hard to get Canadians to go to book a staycation because they already have fishing places around them that are close by or they do not want to travel and spend money to stay in a lodge in Canada.

The business operators said their greatest problem is the month to month; if there was a timeline of when the border was opening then they could prepare or if it doesn’t open for another few months they need more funding.

The goal of the discussion was to hear concerns and ideas about what the border re-opening should look like from businesses that are greatly affected by the closure. NOTO is continuing to collect feedback and will try to find answers to the concerns and questions that were raised.