The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has slammed the Canadian government’s decision to suspend flights to Mexico and Caribbean countries and oblige travelers entering Canada to go into hotel quarantine, asserting that such measures are not the solution to the coronavirus crisis and will severely damage the tourism sector.
“The Canadian government’s decision to suspend all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30, and impose hotel quarantines for all arriving passengers, will cause even further damage to its travel and tourism industry, which is already in a fight for survival due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said WTTC president and CEO Gloria Guevara.
“Blanket flight cancelations and ineffective and costly quarantines are not the solution and will only slow down the recovery of this important sector.”
Guevara, who was federal tourism minister in the second half of former president Felipe Calderón’s 2006-2012 term, called the Canadian measures “drastic” and said that they will cause “untold damage” to Canada’s travel sector, which she said creates more than 1.6 million jobs and in 2019 contributed CAD $143.9 billion to the country’s economy.
“The sector will be key to Canada’s economic recovery once the pandemic has been combatted,” she added.
Guevara said the WTTC believes that that rapid, low-cost testing on departure for all travelers, along with the implementation of a contact-tracing regime is the only way to save the tourism sector.
“These simple and effective measures, along with observing enhanced hygiene protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing, will avoid exporting the virus and enable the free movement of travelers,” she said.
The WTTC chief asserted that quarantines should only be in place for people who tested positive for the coronavirus and therefore testing airline passengers is “absolutely critical.”
“We would also like to see a clear and detailed exit strategy, as the travel and tourism sector needs to restart now, before many businesses crumble and even more people lose their jobs,” Guevara said.
“Our latest research reveals the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on travel and tourism across North America, with between 10.8 million and 13.8 million sector jobs at serious risk. We hope the Canadian government will collaborate with other leaders around the world to agree on a more internationally coordinated approach to restart travel and save the ailing sector.”
Canada’s suspension of flights has also been criticized by Mexico’s government.
Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco said that tourism sector revenue could decrease by US $782 million as a result of the three-month suspension of flights from Canada to Mexico, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government hoped that the flight freeze could be lifted “as soon as possible in order to prevent a profound economic crisis in the North American region.”
Aviation experts who spoke to the Canadian Press said the flight suspension will likely cause bankruptcies in Canada’s airline sector and permanent closures of airports and travel agencies.
The announcement that flights to Mexico and the Caribbean were to be halted “was the nail in the coffin for the airline and tourism business,” said Robert Kokonis, founder and managing director of aviation consulting firm AirTrav Inc.
“We’re going to see bankruptcy filings, you might even see a few outright failures. … This will definitely finish off hundreds of travel agents, if not thousands, across the country.”
John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University and the head of its Global Aviation Leadership Program, said the airlines Sunwing and Transat were most at risk of bankruptcy because of their dependence on flights to so-called sun destinations. But the former denied that was the case.
The Canadian Airports Council said that airports were burning through cash reserves, laying off staff and taking on additional debt as demand for their services has plummeted 85% to 90% since spring.
“Today, there is nothing left to cut, yet the restrictions keep piling on,” said president Daniel-Robert Gooch.
Kokonis said he was disappointed that the announcement of the new Canadian restrictions wasn’t accompanied by an “announcement of aid” for the travel sector.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Torruco is attempting to have tourism declared an essential economic activity in Mexico to protect the sector while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage here and in many other countries.
The Tourism Ministry said in a statement Monday that Torruco made a submission to the economy and health ministers asking them to consider declaring tourism essential.
The tourism minister highlighted that tourism generated annual revenue of US $172 billion before the pandemic, contributed to 8.7% of Mexico’s GDP and provided direct employment for 4.4 million people.