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

Move430 aims to encourage Langley residents to be active while raising funds to help kids play sports (KidSport image)
A virtual get-active challenge to Langley residents

MOVE430 fundraiser by Langley KidSport will help young athletes take up organized sports

Max and Charlie found their forever home through LAPS. (Special to The Star)
Langley Animal Protection Society says goodbye to longtime volunteers

Dog walkers Donna Linke and Pauline Markle have retired after more than 15 years of service

Langley Township council passed a tree protection bylaw in 2019, but one resident says the municipality does not do enough to preserve valuable trees. (Black Press Media)
LETTER: The last straw

An Aldergrove resident mourns the loss of 125-year-old Douglas fir tree

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

(Government of B.C.)
Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

Most Read