Northern Ontario tourism industry hit hard by border restrictions

‘The closed border and lingering border restrictions have hit northern Ontario more severely than the rest of the province in the past two and a half years, as approximately one-third of northern Ontario tourism is from the United States’

The Northern Ontario Border Working Group says it supports ending the remaining border crossing requirements of random testing, vaccination of international tourists, and the use of ArriveCAN.

“We have been working hard for over two years to continuously reduce and eliminate the border restrictions in order to protect the tourism industry,” says David MacLachlan, executive director of Destination Northern Ontario in a news release. “These measures have run their course and Canada must now align itself with the practices of other countries, level the playing field for tourism operators, and fully welcome all tourists.”

The release says remaining restrictions continue to prevent United States tourists from taking trips into Ontario, especially through land ports, as the number of trips has been approximately half of what they were during the summer of 2019.

The closed border and lingering border restrictions have hit northern Ontario more severely than the rest of the province in the past two and a half years, as approximately one-third of northern Ontario tourism is from the United States.

“Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) strongly supports the elimination of the pandemic border restrictions and requirements,” states Executive Director Laure Marcil. “Vaccination requirements, ArriveCAN, and random testing have been the top three reasons for international tourists to choose vacation destinations other than returning to northern Ontario. This spring, these border requirements resulted in tourism businesses reporting over $100 million in cancellations.”

An open border for tourists is important as there usually are approximately one million United States visitors to northern Ontario annually, spending $466 million. Northern Ontario tourism is a $1.6 billion industry attracting 9.2 million visitors, supporting 24,000 jobs, and generating over $500 million in tax revenue, according to the group.

Chris Bloore, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, maintains that, “For the tourism industry in Ontario to truly recover and to take its place as one of the leading economic drivers in our province, we need to remove the final obstacles to travel that are severely limiting the numbers of international travelers choosing to travel to Ontario. It’s time for Canada to follow the lead of many of our G7 colleagues and international peers and scrap vaccine mandates and end the mandatory use of ArriveCAN.”

While the group feels the timing of dropping the remaining border crossing restrictions is long overdue, “at least northern Ontario tourist operators will be able to fully market to all fall and winter tourists. Furthermore, they will be able to plan and engage in marketing activities and attend marketplaces for the 2023 tourist season.”

In December 2020, Destination Northern Ontario (DNO), Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO), the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and other stakeholder organizations, formed the Northern Ontario Border Working Group (NOBWG) to represent the tourism industry to work with the public and private sector to address the issues of a restricted border due to the pandemic.

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