Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The Yukon government is under pressure from the tourism industry to clarify what the upcoming season holds as operators struggle to keep their businesses open.
A letter to Jeanie McLean, the minister of Tourism and Culture, says “the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon (TIA Yukon) is pressing for an ‘Active and Alert State of Readiness’ to begin a soft opening at the earliest opportunity.
“We want our leaders to “skate to where the puck is going, not where it currently is,” association chair Neil Hartling writes.
In the letter, he pointedly asks McLean if the government is favouring a status quo that could see restrictions in place for years to come, or if it believes there’s a chance of tourism operators being able to do some business in 2021.
“If the goal is to ride-the-tail-to-zero before shifting from the mandatory isolation mode, we need to know ASAP, so that we can advise operators to cut loses, move to new careers and repurpose infrastructure,” Hartling writes.
“A scan of reputable reports on vaccine efficacy with variants supports the outlook that vaccinations will suppress transmission and lessen virulence.
“This combined with best-practices should soon get us to a sustainable flat-line. This jives with Dr. (Brendan) Hanley’s prediction a year ago, that we will have to learn to live in a world with COVID for years to come.
“The taper could conceivably take three or more years of minimal risk, until anything resembling a zero-transmission state is reached.
“This possibility underlines our need for ‘an Active and Alert State of Readiness’ for the appropriate time, metrics, and method to ‘step-off’ the curve.”
The association is asking for a so-called “soft-opening mechanism which would implement a vaccination-and-test combination ASAP, for a secure screening process, switching out the blunt instrument of 14-day isolation and a geopolitical opening like the ‘BC bubble’ and open to all qualifying Canadians with the new measure,” Hartling writes.
He wants “a measured, slow, intake of visitors, that will slowly grow over the year, re-uniting family members and allowing vaccinated Yukoners to travel.
“This will allow us to take ‘baby steps’ in opening and managing the process at the borders with the two-pronged approach of vaccination and test.
“The Yukon has an opportunity to be a leader and a model for the rest of the country when it comes to a safe reopening,” Hartling writes.
“But important questions have yet to be answered. What are the territory’s organizational needs for implementing the change from 14-day isolation?
“What HR needs, training, equipment and other organizational shifts are required to manage borders, testing, etc. under the new reality? Show us the plan.
“We are asking our leaders to meld science and medicine with political will and lead us out of this situation in a safe and timely fashion,” Hartling tells McLean.
Jonathan Parker, the assistant deputy minister of Tourism and Culture, issued this statement to the Star this morning.
“Despite the success we are seeing with Yukon’s vaccination program, new COVID variants and the continued ‘second wave’ in many Canadian and international jurisdictions have created uncertainty around how soon self-isolation requirements can be safely lifted for Yukon visitors,” Parker said.
“The Department of Tourism and Culture is continuing to work with its partners in the tourism sector to balance the need for ongoing relief funding, while working toward full industry recovery when the time is right.
“As such, the department is extending tourism-specific business support programs, which were scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021, into the next fiscal year.
“These include $4M for the Tourism Accommodation Sector Supplement (TASS) and Tourism Non-Accommodation Sector Supplement (TNASS), and $450,000 for the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon’s ELEVATE business mentoring program (also previously set to expire on March 31, 2021),” Parker added.
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