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COVID-19: Alberta tourism and hospitality leaders call for loosening of travel restrictions

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, and with another winter season around the corner, leaders in Alberta’s tourism and hospitality industry gathered at Mount Norquay ski resort Tuesday morning to make a plea to Ottawa.

The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable is calling on the federal government to drop the requirement for fully-vaccinated travellers from outside of Canada to produce a negative PCR test.

In some cases the tests can run upwards of $200.

“It’s nice to see the restrictions lifted with respect to land and air border locations, but as we talked about today, it’s still a bit cost-prohibitive at the moment,” said Darren Reeder, a board adviser with the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta.

According to the Roundtable, Banff National Park is still seeing plenty of visitors from across Canada, but they would like more international guests.

“This removal of the PCR test (requirement) seems like such minute detail, but it’s such a powerful tool in getting our market moving again,” said Katie Tuff of the Banff Hospitality Collective.

During the winter months, skiing is central to boosting Banff’s local economy.

Pete Woods is the president of SkiBig3, a group that represents the Mount Norquay, Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise ski resorts. He said since most Albertans get out onto the slopes on the weekend, business throughout the season heavily relies on travellers from outside of Canada.

“What we see from our international visitors is the longer stay, and they come throughout the entire week,” he said. “When they do, it helps spread (business) out.”

Whether or not the request is listened to is another story.

Health Canada has said that its current testing measures are a critical part of Canada’s COVID-19 surveillance strategy, and that PCR — or molecular — tests have a significantly high sensitivity for early detection of COVID-19.

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