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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, travel businesses and families are calling on the federal government to remove "unnecessary and non-science-based" obstacles to international travel, such as the pre-departure PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers.
At a press conference today sponsored by the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable, several parties said that the high costs of PCR tests required for return to Canada disproportionately impact average Canadian families.
A PCR test can add over $200 per person or an additional $800 for a family of four for a round-trip cross-border flight.
"The PCR test is a major barrier for middle-class families hoping to travel across the border," says Sheila Gallant-Halloran, owner of Lush Life Travel.
"The result is that families simply aren't travelling. The cost and inconvenience is too high, and until the federal government takes action to reduce the obstacles to travel, small Canadian tourism businesses like mine will not be able to recover fully," the travel agency owner added.
The Canadian Tourism Roundtable is a cross-Canadian coalition of leaders in the tourism and travel sector - including representatives from airports, airlines, hotels, and chambers of commerce across the country - committed to working together to restart the sector smoothly and safely.
On another issue, the group points out that unvaccinated minors travelling with their fully vaccinated parents are unable to attend school, daycare and camp for two weeks after travel, potentially adding the cost of two additional weeks of private childcare, adding to the disincentive to travel.
The group suggests that until a vaccine for minors under 12 is approved, children should return to school using testing, not quarantine.
"Canadian families deserve to be treated equally when travelling," said Perrin Beatty,President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
"In France and the United Kingdom, children can travel with their fully vaccinated parents, making travel to see family and friends more accessible to the middle class. Many other countries have implemented science-based policies, including the exemption of fully vaccinated travellers from testing requirements. Canada should follow suit."
Ottawa parent David Schwartz also spoke at the press conference, detailing the impact of the requirements on average families.
"The pandemic took a real toll on our family. We have been looking forward to bringing our children to visit family members across the border," Schwartz said.
"We've done our part. My wife and I got vaccinated. But it is almost impossible for us to do this. The cost of the PCR test adds almost an additional $1000 to our trip, and then our kids can't go to school for two weeks, resulting in additional childcare costs. We need the government to change the rules so we can see our loved ones again."
The Roundtable suggests that the pandemic, vaccination status and available science have changed, and requirements should evolve as well, keeping Canadians safe while allowing the travel and tourism industry to reopen.
If not, the group suggests that many travel bookings for the coming months will be cancelled or delayed, further damaging an industry that has suffered greatly during the pandemic.
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