Takeaways From The Industry Feedback Border Call
Thank you to all the operators who took the time to join us on the industry feedback call. In the event you could not attend this meeting, here are a few highlights and comments collected from operators. The call focused on the following questions:
1) How do we ensure that people crossing the border go to their intended destination? We have to assume that they have been vaccinated or tested before the came.
- Application that tracks travellers as they cross the border. The federal government has an app called ArriveCAN. And this app was put into place prior to COVID, but it is now being used for COVID to track international arrivals. This app is trying to capture more information (than the customs form we complete) in advance. Since Nov. 21st all individuals who cross the border (air, land and sea) need to check in using the app once they arrive at their destination and check in everyday during the quarantine period.Comment:
- Electronic acknowledgment that guests must fill when they check in to their accommodations.
- This could be done through a booking confirmation letter provided by the operator.
- Operator could call CBSA upon guest arrival. May cause issues with those in areas with limited connectivity.
- Operators could supply CBSA with the itinerary with contact information and blocks of time where guests will be so that they may be “spot checked” by agents if required.
- Border could be used as a checkpoint for guests to check in with their lodge and confirm this will be their destination.
- Allow people to stop at certain gas stations or food stops and have guests carry a log book of where they’ve been.
- Operators could take on the extra responsibility of picking up groceries for their guests in order to keep their communities safe and prevent stops.
2) What do you think the process should look like? Rapid testing, a second test post arrival, proof of vaccine?
- Need to have the option of either taking a rapid test at the border or show proof of vaccination.
- No quarantine period.
- Not a strong appetite for asking guests to do a second test once they arrive at a lodge. If lodges need to administer tests, there will need to be funding to procure the test. There also needs to be enough rapid tests available for the entire industry.
- Would like to see testing at the border be completed at Canadian standards, as our standards are typically higher.
- Some self-tracking should be in place. (ArriveCan or other app). Some guests may be more willing to share personal information with their destination for contact tracing purposes.
- Need a Northern Ontario land border crossing pilot project.
- Get individuals to bring proof of vaccination.
- Have conversations with groups in the US about what the border reopening could look like.
- Perhaps requirements should vary based on where individuals are coming from. For example, no quarantine if individuals come from a State with x per 100,000 COVID cases, or through the use of a risk matrix (where are they coming from, have they been vaccinated, negative tests, etc.) and compare to high vs low risk destinations (city vs outpost camp).
3) How do we track this at the border crossing so that we can report back?
- Toronto Pearson did a pilot project in conjunction with McMaster University. They asked people to volunteer to take the test at the airport. They were then sent home with 2 more tests (to be taken at 7 day mark and then 14th day). McMaster tracked all the stats. It would be beneficial to look at.
- We should look at what other countries are doing at their borders around the world.
- The pilot happening in Alberta is the best way forward. Test at the border and once they receive the negative result, let people go where they want.
4) If we were able to get the border open in your region for a pilot program, what would we have to do as an industry to ensure resident sentiment was addressed?
- Government needs to provide more clarity when they are speaking about positive test results and where the bulk of the test results are coming from. For example, in Ontario some health unit regions are very large and the bulk of the positive results may be coming from a specific area (example: Simcoe-Muskoka – few cases in Muskoka region).
- We need to start eliminating the fear and educate.
- To ensure we have local buy in, it’s important for the industry to share the details of the pilot project; show what safeguards are in place (i.e. Travellers can’t cross unless tested, vaccinated, etc.)
- We need to make locals aware of the protocols that have been developed/are in place.
- Highlight economic impact of our lodges on our local communities, regions and country.
- Keep communication open (with mayors, community members).
- Speak to the value ($) of tourism and the importance of it as an industry
- Send direct mail to the public with all the plans to ensure the public is safe and is being educated on the pilot.
- More stories shared to the media & other community communication outlets about the businesses struggling, not just lodges. Focus on food suppliers, other businesses so they get it’s NOT just American owned lodges.
- Acknowledge that individuals from Ontario hot-spots are just as likely to bring COVID to northern communities as US.
- Rapid testing option needs to made available alongside vaccine card.
- Some operators are against the idea of needing to provide CBSA with information on their guests for tracking purposes.
- Some operators feel that once travellers are cleared at the border, especially those with vaccine cards, there shouldn’t be any arbitrary holdbacks on their travel (isolation periods, quarantine, travel straight to destination)
- There are a few operators that are concerned for their communities. There is a possibility US guests will be vaccinated before Northern Ontario receives vaccines. These guests may be carriers of the virus and could put northern communities at risk.
- Need to know if the border will remain closed in 2021 so that operators can cancel US bookings and begin planning/filling vacancies as best as they can with domestic market. Right now operators are near or at full capacity with bookings for 2021 with US guests that rescheduled for this summer.
- If border doesn’t open, the industry needs property tax relief, help with covering other fixed costs (insurance, utilities, etc), more financial supports (not in the form of loans), better access to CEWS.
If you have any other comments, please e-mail email@example.com and we will bring them forward to the Northern Ontario Border Working Group.