Special to The Lake Report
Our Canadian travel and tourism industry was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic first, it was hit the hardest and will take the longest time to recover.
For more than two years, tourism businesses in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie have been looking forward to finally achieving some form of economic recovery this summer.
In Niagara, local tourism businesses generate 75 per cent of their revenue over the summer season, which is just 25 per cent of the year – or simply put, over the course of four months – and June is now almost over.
While many public restrictions and mandates have been lifted recently, one major federal obstacle remains in the way – and it threatens to derail the entire 2022 summer tourism season in Niagara and across Canada: The continued mandatory use of the ArriveCAN application at all ports of entry in Canada.
By doubling down on the continued mandatory use of ArriveCAN, the Liberal government is actively discouraging travel to Canada and that is terrible news for tourism businesses that depend on international visitors for their revenue and economic recovery, as so many in Niagara do.
Just last week, the International Trade Committee, of which I am a member, heard from witnesses testifying on our study of “Potential Impacts of the ArriveCAN Application on Certain Canadian Sectors.”
Through this study, which I initiated in late May, the committee has heard from the Customs and Immigration Union that the federal government failed to consult with its own Canadian Border Services Agency employees before implementing and launching this app.
According to the union, border processing times have gone from 60 vehicles per hour pre-pandemic, to 30 vehicles per hour, and at times even fewer, since the implementation of ArriveCAN.
The committee also heard from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which highlighted a number of ongoing issues with ArriveCAN, including duplicate information input requirements at ports of entry; senseless data requirements, such as the need for an American day trip traveller to submit a Canadian address as a place to quarantine; network roaming issues in border communities; universal access to the app – not everyone has a smartphone, or can afford one; and tech literacy, which affects many travellers, especially seniors.
Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, agreed with my call on the federal government to end the mandatory use of ArriveCAN. She also informed us that American visitation is not expected to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2026.
This is extremely discouraging because American visitation to the Niagara region accounts for 50 per cent of the revenues generated by our local tourism operators, and the last thing our 40,000 Niagara tourism workers need this summer is the federal government standing in our way of achieving this badly needed local economic and financial recovery.
The ArriveCAN app has turned into a symbol of this Liberal government’s incompetence and mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government must immediately end the mandatory use of ArriveCAN at our land borders, marine ports and airports, so we can save the 2022 summer tourism season.
Tony Baldinelli is the Conservative MP for Niagara Falls riding, which includes Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie.