Traffic is down 90 per cent and revenues 80 per cent in the COVID-19 pandemic, Vancouver International Airport CEO Tamara Vrooman says. (YVR photo)

Traffic is down 90 per cent and revenues 80 per cent in the COVID-19 pandemic, Vancouver International Airport CEO Tamara Vrooman says. (YVR photo)

B.C. tourism looks to COVID-19 rapid testing to begin recovery

Airports start programs to ease quarantine rules on travellers

For Canada’s airlines and airports, the months-long COVID-19 pandemic has far surpassed 9/11 in its impact on business and employment, and following the lead of European and Asian countries to streamline traveller testing is a key to recovery, tourism and airline executives say.

In a tourism recovery forum organized by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Monday, Vancouver International Airport CEO Tamara Vrooman said a pilot program for rapid testing of arriving international passengers at Calgary Airport was begun two weeks ago, and a program to test arriving passengers is about to be done in Toronto. Testing people days before they fly, screening as they board and testing as they arrive at a destination is the path to carefully winding down the quarantine rules that have put the international travel business on life support, Vrooman and other travel executive said.

The picture is currently grim for Air Canada, senior vice president Ferio Pugliese told the forum, hosted on the Zoom video conferencing platform from Vancouver. Demand is down 92 per cent, 20,000 employees are laid off and 200 aircraft are parked waiting for some easing of travel restrictions as has been seen in Europe and Asia, which have safe country agreements and are deploying rapid testing.

“I do think there will be some movement with the federal government on rapid testing,” Pugliese said. “It’s amazing in a short period of time how much testing has advanced.”

Darryl Brooker, president of Mission Hill winery in West Kelowna, said rapid testing is vital to domestic tourism as well. It not only gives travellers an assurance of their safety, it helps businesses keep their workforce making products and staffing destination facilities when visitors do arrive.

Rebuilding customer confidence that tours and other activities are safe is “really about showing, not telling,” Brooker said. “You can only put up so many signs.”

Royce Chwin, CEO of Tourism Vancouver, said the city is the “anchor tenant” for the rebuilding of tourism business across B.C. Like other urban centres, it has taken a “triple hit” of pandemic effects on residents, office workers and travellers, with an estimated loss of $9.8 billion in visitor spending, $2.6 billion in taxes paid to government and 72,000 jobs.

Vrooman noted that Canada is the only G7 country that has not provided any assistance to its airports and airlines in the pandemic, calling the ability to prove virus-negative status “essential” to a recovery.

RELATED: Board of Trade says businesses need more short-term help

RELATED: Canada seeks to increase immigration due to pandemic

Chwin said another step in tourism and travel recovery is to use testing to find ways to get out from under the 50-person cap on public events that has ground the convention business to a halt. He said restoring public confidence that activities are safe is not just science but art, answering the question: “How do you move from fear of the virus to respect for the virus?”

Board of Trade CEO Bridgitte Anderson, moderator of the forum, said a recent survey of group members found that 26 per cent of them don’t expect their business to survive another 12 months in the current conditions. With the losses that have already taken place, Chwin said confidence is needed because “we’re going to have to attract entrepreneurs to come back into the industry and rebuild it.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Highway 5 southbound lanes are closed near Exit 286. Pictured are southbound lanes at 7:06 p.m. (DriveBC)
Coquihalla Highway southbound lanes closed due to vehicle incident

Southbound lanes closed between Exit 286: Merritt and the start of Hwy 5

(Mountainview Brewing Co./Facebook photo)
Hope brewery now open

Mountainview Brewing Co.’s soft opening taking place Tuesday from 1 to 8 p.m.

The Abbotsford Pilots and all other junior teams in B.C. have been paused from competition after new restrictions put in place to battle the spread of COVID-19.
Chilliwack Jets, PJHL grounded after new restrictions

Games in the junior B league won’t played until after Dec. 7 at the earliest

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:06 a.m.
Early-morning crash on Highway 1 has morning commuters in gridlock

Westbound crash occurred in Langley, west of 264th Street; left lane blocked

The seats in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre’s theatre will be empty for the time being with provincial health orders in effect. (chilliwackculturalcentre.ca)
Chilliwack Cultural Centre shuts doors to observe provincial health orders

While the 2021 schedule is unaffected so far, refunds are being offered for 2020 events

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

Most Read