TORONTO, May 12, 2022 /CNW/ – Toronto business leaders, including representatives from the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, AccorHotels, and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, have come together to echo the Greater Toronto Airports Authority’s call to the federal government to urgently address government agency issues plaguing travellers at Toronto Pearson, Canada’s largest airport.
While Canada’s borders may be open to fully vaccinated travellers, Canada’s travel economy is far from recovered, and delays at the airport are not helping with the recovery. Following two years of uncertainty, business leaders are calling on the government to immediately address resource challenges with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to streamline international arrivals by eliminating legacy Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) measures and to move randomized COVID-19 testing off-airport.
As a world-class city with businesses just now emerging from the crisis of the last two years, long wait times and significant delays are the first impression for many international travellers. This is a significant obstacle to business recovery. The federal government should have planned for the return to travel, and the issues must be resolved immediately. International passengers arriving at Pearson are forced to wait up to three hours, often onboard the aircraft, during peak periods before proceeding to customs. Last week, 7,000 travellers waited longer than 90 minutes on airplanes. As the summer travel season approaches, it is expected that these wait times will only get worse. Almost 50% of all international arriving passengers, or 100,000 people, were delayed last week, a 20 per cent increase in the past two weeks. For passengers departing on a flight, wait times to clear security are also staggering, reaching as high as 75 minutes during peak departure times.
Pre-pandemic, CBSA processing at Pearson took on average 30 seconds for an arriving passenger; today, the processing can take up to four times longer. The increased processing time stems from two leftover, non-science-based pandemic relics: on-airport mandatory random COVID-19 testing for 2,000 international arriving passengers per day and duplicate health checks and questions. These two public health measures could be immediately lifted to address issues at Canada’s hub airports.
Monitoring for potential COVID-19 variants can be accomplished through proven scientific options such as community wastewater testing, which is widely supported by scientific and medical communities. Wastewater testing would provide an early warning system for incoming variants without inconveniencing travellers or placing undue stress on Canada’s transportation system.
Jan De Silva, President and CEO of Toronto Region Board of Trade said, “To solve for the long-tail economic realities faced by our visitor economy we must demonstrate to potential visitors – especially our business visitors – they can travel easily and without undo challenge to our region. In short – we need to make this a good experience. Competing cities around the world are doing this successfully. We are painfully and inexcusably behind in Toronto.
“For this reason, we echo the GTAA and urge the federal government to take immediate action and remove legacy public health requirements to support GTA businesses and to help our city get back to normal.”
“Toronto Pearson is the gateway for international travellers visiting Toronto and continuing to other Canadian destinations. The current travel experience will have detrimental and lasting impacts on how Toronto and Canada are viewed on the international stage. As Toronto and its tourism businesses continue to struggle to find their footing, the last thing we need is another hurdle that hampers our collective recovery. We need action from the government now to avoid permanent damage to Toronto’s reputation as a premier travel destination,” said Christopher Bloore, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.
“Severe passenger congestion at our country’s largest airport will have lasting impacts on the City of Toronto’s ability to get back to normal. Hotels are operating at a significantly lower rate than industry averages, and lengthy delays and staff shortages at the airport will exacerbate the problem. International tourism is already limited, and with major events and conventions now being scheduled to take place, we need to make sure our city has the resources and capacity to ensure they can go ahead,” said Edwin Frizzell, Regional Vice President Accor Central Canada & General Manager of Fairmont Royal York at AccorHotels.
“Canada’s travel industry, including travel agencies and independent travel agents, are just beginning the long road to recovery. Yet, ACTA has received reports of travellers cancelling reservations or deferring travel because of delays at government checkpoints. Pearson Airport has already made their needs clear, and today we are urging the federal government to act on them. It’s time for the government to address resource shortages and remove legacy COVID-19 policies that are only slowing us down,” said Wendy Paradis, President & CEO of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA).