Canada and U.S. shouldn't 'normalize' border closure: Canadian American Business Council CEO
Canada aims to capitalize on its more conservative approach to fighting the coronavirus to promote itself as a safe destination for tourists once the pandemic subsides.
Since March, Justin Trudeau’s government has kept in place a travel lockdown that bans most foreign visitors and forces anyone coming into Canada to quarantine for 14 days. The virus has devastated the travel industry: Tourism spending in Canada plummeted by 66.3 per cent in the second quarter to $7 billion.
But the rules may have contributed to Canada’s relatively better performance in fighting COVID-19, though cases have been on the rise lately. It has suffered about 250 deaths per million people compared to the U.S. rate of 640 deaths per million. The contrast was highlighted by moderator Susan Page during Wednesday’s night’s vice-presidential debate.
“What we want to do is really to position Canada as a safe country once this pandemic ends,” Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly said in an interview. “I think that can be really our competitive edge because following the pandemic we will need to build trust within the industry in Canada.”
The strategy comes as Trudeau’s Liberals face pressure to ramp up relief efforts for the country’s hardest-hit sectors such as airlines and airports, while some businesses and citizens argue for a loosening of restrictions.
American travelers are the No. 1 source of tourists to Canada. U.S. visitors accounted for two thirds of arrivals, or 15 million tourists, in 2019, according to Statistics Canada.
“Countries will be competing to get their fair share of tourists and so that’s why I think positioning us as a safe country where health of Canadians and visitors is paramount will be key,” Joly said.
Trudeau vowed to roll out special support measures for Canada’s tourism sector in the so-called Throne Speech, which laid out the government’s COVID-19 economic recovery agenda. Joly said she is working on an aid program, but didn’t provide details.
Most of the Trudeau government’s pandemic programs for business have been broad-based, such as wage subsidies and interest-free loans for small businesses, rather than aimed at specific industries.