Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, misses seeing Canadians…a lot.
Dow lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and he says every night he looks out at the condos in his neighbourhood and they’re dark. Because they’re owned by Canadians.
Speaking to his trade constituents via Zoom recently, he said, “A billion dollars a day goes across that border…We need to get the Canadian traveller back. It’s the largest country for travel to the US and over 20 million Canadians come here, and it goes back and forth.
“We have to get that going,” he said, adding that though the USTA is lobbying to get all markets open for travel to the US, ”the Canadian [market] should be one of the easiest to get open based on protocols both countries are doing and it would make…the most sense to start stepping out in Canada fairly quickly.”
Susan Collins, US Senator from Maine, is of the same mind, calling for an immediate easing of the restrictions that keep Canadians and Americans apart.
Collins has advocated “implementing procedures such as requiring proof of a recent negative test or vaccination to begin safely loosening the restrictions, which would be beneficial to families, the economy, and small businesses that rely on Canadian customers.”
In addition to Senator Collins, a caucus of 26 US members of Congress, mostly from northern border states, has pressed President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to start a reopening process to restore cross-border travel, to help reunite families, and to develop a clear policy for cross-border property owners.
Their petition to the president warns that “the continued ritual of monthly extensions without substantive signs of collaboration or progress only increases uncertainty and amplifies hardship for the border communities we represent.”
Partly in response to that Congressional initiative, President Biden has issued an Executive Order directing Homeland Security and other related agencies to develop a plan for stabilizing and re-opening the border. He has also further projected that any American who wants a vaccine could have it by May 1. Prime Minister Trudeau, however, does not see Canada reaching that marker until at least September.
PM not hot on vaccine passports
And though much of the world is engaged in developing some form of “vaccine passport,” PM Trudeau remains adamant that going the way of certification is “fraught with challenges.” Specifically, he has cited concerns about individual health privacy issues encoded in any form of visa or certificate, and he is also worried that while high-priority groups for vaccination (such as seniors) might be in line for certificates allowing them to travel, others who can’t be vaccinated because of health issues, or young people who are lower priority for vaccination, might not have equal access. In essence, it’s an issue of fairness.
In the meantime, need for some type of vaccine passport is gaining traction world-wide.
The European Union is pressing ahead with development of a “digital green pass” that shows if the holder has been vaccinated, has tested negative, or has developed immunity as the result of previous COVID infection. The EU hopes to have a workable credential model ready for the summer holiday season (which for Europeans is a hallowed period). Portugal, for example, is now working on its own simplified version specifically for UK travellers, whether they are vaccinated or not. The certificate would be available to unvaccinated young travellers (a low-risk group) and older age groups who have recently tested negative for COVID. Portuguese tourism officials hope to have their certificates ready from May 17 onwards.
Meanwhile, PM Trudeau has continued to wave off any suggestions that he is prepared to open the border any time soon, asserting that if and when the US/Canada border opens depends on vaccinations in Canada, not the US. (According to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, as of March 17, 2021, the UK has administered 40.47 vaccine doses per 100 people; the US 34.05; and Canada 8.98.)
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