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

(Black Press Media file photo)
Police arrest man covered in blood on heels of significant Saanich crash into woods

Resident calls in home invasion in progress after crash

Nikita, a four-year-old German Shepherd that was attacked by a buck in a backyard in Esquimalt Sunday is lucky the injury wasn't more severe. (Photo contributed by Suzette Goldsworthy)
Esquimalt dog owner issues alert after deer injures German shepherd

Nikita needed stitches after an early morning encounter

(Left to right) Saanich Predators assistant captain Jack Groves, captain Joe Stafford-Veale, assistant captain Jacob King and assistant captain Riley Wiens show off one of the team’s three new jerseys featuring the orca logo. (Photo courtesy Christine Gleed)
Saanich Predators junior hockey team breaks in new logo, jerseys

Junior B hockey team rebrands after 53 years

Capital Regional District Animal Control say an eight-month-old Rottweiler bit a Langford mother and her child near Glen Lake on Nov. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Large dog attacks mother and child in Langford

Mother puts three-year-old on top of car to protect him

The Victoria Police Department headquarters. (Black Press Media file photo)
Investigation launched into man’s death after arrest in Victoria

IIO investigation to determine if police actions or inaction played a role in the man’s death

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Most Read