The repercussions of drawn-out, draconian Covid restrictions are clear. It will take time to strengthen Canadians' feelings about welcoming back international visitors, but also to rebuild consumer confidence in traveling to Canada.
On the eve of Canada finally loosening entry restrictions for the first time since the pandemic for fully vaccinated travelers, its residents aren’t feeling entirely ready to welcome back larger numbers of international visitors into their backyards.
Those are the results of the latest Canada Resident Sentiment Survey, which reveal that less than 50 percent of Canadians across six regions feel they are ready to welcome back U.S. visitors into their respective communities. A mere 45 percent also feel all right about having other international visitors back in their backyards.
The result in sentiment is similar across all of Canada’s major provinces, except for Quebec where just a little more than half of residents are fine with seeing U.S. tourists back.
While Destination Canada’s report states that the survey points to the highest level of readiness recorded since tracking began in September 2020, it’s still significantly low when placed in contrast against the readiness to see fellow Canadians from other parts of the country. Receiving visitors from nearby communities and other parts of Canada, for example, reached between 73 and 87 percent levels of approval in the survey.
To boot, the local sentiment towards welcoming foreign travelers dips further for remote areas such as Atlantic Canada where just 33 percent agreed they were fine with the return of international visitors.
“Our research highlights a significant increase in the level of welcome towards visitors from all destinations, as well as steady increases in residents’ receptivity of promoting their community as a travel destination,” said Marsha Walden, CEO of Destination Canada. “These are key signals that residents’ confidence in welcoming back visitors is moving in a positive direction and will continue to grow as local and border restrictions ease.
But this overall slow to rebound national sentiment potentially points to the repercussions from Canada’s long-running strict regime of entry restrictions, PCR-testing, and quarantine, in spite of a fast accelerating vaccine distribution, and its impact on the state of mind of both Canadians and international travelers returning to Canada.
When entry restrictions ease on February 28, fully vaccinated travelers will only have to show proof of an antigen test, along with the possibility of random on arrival testing. This loosened approach is likely to begin rebuilding confidence among Canadians as well as U.S. and other international visitors interested in returning to Canada.
But it will take time. For now, less than half of Canadians say they feel safe to venture to the U.S. or internationally while over 75 percent feel safe to explore their own country.
“We are laser-focused on winning the competitive battle for visitors,” said Destination Canada’s Walden. “We are jumping on every possible opportunity to drive revenue back into tourism businesses while continuing to build confidence in our communities.”
UPDATED: The story was updated to include statements from Destination Canada.
Photo credit: As Canada loosens entry restrictions on Monday, less than half of residents feel ready to welcome more visitors back into their communities. Connor Jolley / Unsplash