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

Fireworks display provided a colourful and sizzling Halloween for area residents. (Ken Alexander photo)
Ken Alexander: Fireworks provides colourful Halloween

Seven young ladies brought great joy to the residents on Green Lake… Continue reading

The Cariboo Regional District has launched a broadband survey for residents, businesses and organizations. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
CRD launches broadband survey

Aim is to obtain information and feedback about existing internet and cellular services in CRD.

South Cariboo Search and Rescue's Sam Bregman (from left) accepts a commendation for his work on helping to rescue Barry Lannon from 100 Mile RCMP Sergeant Brad McKinnon along with fellow SAR members Val Severin and Blanky McBlankface. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Searchers commended for intensive search

Community pulls together to find Barry Lannon

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Eric Herl, left, and Wyatt Herl installs lights on the Memory Tree outside the 100 Mile Fire Department. The tree is set to light up on Dec. 11. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).
Memory Tree ceremony to be held virtually this year

Residents asked to send in names of loved ones to 100 Mile Hospice by Dec. 5.

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

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

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Most Read