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Major Toronto attractions want feds to release comprehensive reopening plan

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TORONTO, June 29, 2021 – Together with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable (The Roundtable), major Toronto attractions are calling on the federal government to announce a re-opening plan for Canadians. With the second consecutive summer travel season now officially in jeopardy, the long-term effects of the pandemic will be severe. Now is the time for immediate action, as many beloved Toronto attractions are in danger of permanent closure.

Recent analysis from Roundtable member Destination Toronto has shown that the City of Toronto lost out on more than $8 billion in economy activity through visitor spending – growing to $14 billion for the Greater Toronto Area. In the past year alone, Toronto experienced 463 cancelled events and more than 380,000 attendees lost. Every sector of the Toronto region economy has been impacted by these restrictions, but none harder than the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“The Ripley’s Aquarium has been shuttered since November 2020, and has had no revenue coming in. We are now well into the summer season, our busiest time of the year, and have no direction as to when we will be able to re-open. Toronto is one of the most vaccinated places in the world, yet the government has failed to tell Torontonians and Toronto businesses what they can look forward to as the vaccination effort continues. We have all been left in the dark. As a result, our business is struggling,” said Peter Doyle, General Manager of Ripley’s Aquarium.

We need to be given permission to re-open immediately and open to welcome our doors to international visitors. By prohibiting fully vaccinated travellers from entering Canada the government is significantly disadvantaging Canadian businesses that, after 16 months of a pandemic, need a successful summer season to survive,” continued Peter.

This week marks Canada Day, the busiest travel weekend of the summer; yet Canadian families are still unable to make concrete summer travel plans. Canadian travellers, the most vaccinated people anywhere in the world, are being left out of the travel equation.  Fully vaccinated foreign travellers are still unable to visit Canada, and this is leaving a devastating impact on local business. Right now, in Ontario, it is easier to travel to Brussels than it is to drive to Buffalo.

Although recent announcements from the federal government go some way to answering some of these questions, more policy changes are needed to support the travel and tourism sector recovery. Despite receiving advice from the federally appointed COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel (the Expert Panel), the federal government has yet to publish a comprehensive reopening plan for international and domestic travel, particularly around fully vaccinated foreign nationals visiting Canada.

“Mirvish has remained dark since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the provincial government has started to provide guidance on our re-opening plan, we are a long way away from our return to normal. Toronto’s theatre scene is world-class and attracts visitors from around the globe. International theatregoers are critical to the health of our business,” said John Karastamatis, Director of Sales and Marketing, Mirvish Productions.

“We are truly an international business, relying on cast, crew, and productions far beyond our borders. To get back to normal, we need the federal government to immediately put in place a plan to re-open travel to foreign nationals. Mirvish is a Toronto staple – and it’s time to raise the curtain again,” continued Mr. Karastamatis.

Canadians are doing their part in getting vaccinated; now it is time for the federal government to provide clear, timely, and safe guidance on re-opening Canada for travel.

“American tourists that are fully vaccinated are currently making decisions on where they will spend their vacations and where they will spend their dollars. Canadians are sitting at home waiting for the call from their employer waiting to hear if they have a job this summer. It’s time the Federal Government released its pan to reopen the border, so that our industry can plan to reopen, rehire Ontarians and start to rebuild our industry,” stated Christopher Bloore, President & CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.

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