Paradis noted that even with the recent lifting of Canada’s non-essential travel advisory, Canadian travelers who are fully vaccinated still face the costly expense of a pre-departure PCR test, which can cost around $ 200 per person. .
“This government policy was meant to be temporary and goes against the recommendations of the report of the Federal Government’s Expert Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Testing and Screening, which was released in May of this year,” he said. she declared. Paradis also noted that many countries, including France, Germany, Portugal and the UK, have already removed their own pre-departure and upon-arrival testing policies for fully vaccinated travelers.
“Many Canadian seniors want to start heading south for milder weather, and many of their children and grandchildren will be visiting them during the holidays or during spring break. Unfortunately, this year, many families will not be able to do so, not because of COVID-19, but rather because of the high cost of cumbersome government policy, which is not based on science or evidence. evidence, ”said Paradis. “We call on the federal government to take the advice of its own expert panel of doctors and scientists, and look at what’s going on in the world, especially in the G7 and G20 countries.”
“Travel becomes prohibitive for our members”
Michael MacKenzie, executive director of the Canadian Snowbird Association, which has 115,000 members, said government policy should reflect the tremendous progress Canada has made over the past year in terms of immunization, health and safety. security.
“Right now we have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with over 83% of the country’s population fully vaccinated, and as a result the number of cases has dropped dramatically,” he said. declared. “But the government continues to impose unnecessary burdens on travelers that are not based on science. With the continued requirement for a pre-departure PCR test, travel costs are becoming prohibitive for our members, many of whom are fixed or limited income retirees.
According to MacKenzie, about one million Canadian snowbirds make the annual trek south of the border each winter, and about 600,000 spend a full six months there. However, during the pandemic, the association saw a 70% reduction in travel for its members, most of whom cross the US border.
But the good news is that comments from its members indicate that the vast majority plan to travel again this year. In addition, with the United States now extending eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to people aged 65 and over, returning Canadian snowbirds will be “the safest and most vaccinated Canadians when they return home in the spring, ”said MacKenzie.
“Personally, I see cancellation after cancellation”
To give an agent’s perspective, yesterday’s panel also heard from Lorraine Simpson, founder of Laorraine Simpson Travels and a widowed mother of four who began her travel agent career 20 years ago in a unfinished basement.
Noting how many seniors are simply choosing to stay home due to expensive testing and unclear messages, Simpson said the tourism industry is bracing for more cancellations.
“Personally, I see cancellation after cancellation,” she said. “As you can imagine, over the past 18 months it has been devastating for the travel and tourism industry and for myself as a small business owner.”
What senior travelers want, Simpson added, is certainty, which is why many trust the value of a trusted travel agent.
“Seniors are looking for certainty and certainty in costs and the travel industry is back in a position where we can provide certainty to our customers,” she said. “However, outdated federal government policies make this difficult. The status of the pandemic vaccination and the available science have changed, as has the response and measures to keep Canadians safe while allowing the travel and tourism industry to reopen. We call on the federal government to remove barriers and unnecessary spending. “