Tourism Industry demands Ottawa open the border

“Catastrophic” and “incredibly difficult” pandemic has sidelined tourism and jobs

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Heavyweights in Toronto and Ontario’s tourism industry are slamming the federal government for not having a plan to open the border to international vacationers critical to their survival.

At a news conference at a deserted Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto, they highlighted damage to their industry and the need to open up to fully-vaccinated international travelers.

“It’s been an extremely difficult time” said Peter Doyle, General Manager of Ripley’s.

“Fully vaccinated foreign travelers are still unable to visit Canada and this leaves a devastating impact on local business”

With the aquarium closed for the past 309 days, Doyle says “now’s the time for action”

Doyle was accompanied by members of the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.

“We really really really need the government to act now. And we need the federal government to publish a comprehensive reopening plan,” said John Karamatsis of Mirvish productions which operates four theatres and usually welcomes 2 million visitors a year.

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Half of their tickets sales are to foreign visitors.

“Without the international travelers our audiences will not be big enough,” Karamatsis stated.

Chris Bloore, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, was stark in describing what the $36 billion industry is experiencing.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry have been catastrophic,” he said.

The Roundtable is demanding Ottawa reveal a plan to restart tourism.

And spell out how fully-vaccinated international travelers – especially Americans – can cross the border to spend.

“Canada needs to articulate a clear plan.  A path to reopening to enable business planners to start looking and booking here again,” said Lindsay Broadhead of the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

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Vito Curalli of Hilton Hotels underscored how hotels stepped up during the pandemic by functioning as quarantine locations, sheltering the vulnerable, and housing medical workers.

He said the industry cannot lose another summer.

“Toronto’s vibrant tourism industry is at risk of witnessing another critical summer travel season lost to the pandemic.

This puts people’s livelihoods in jeopardy,” Curalli said.

The Roundtable also said with vaccination rates – especially full vaccination – reaching a higher level, it’s time to begin reassuring the public.

“We need to do something to undo all of the residual fear in the general population,”  Broadhead said.

“It’s time to unscare the public.”

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