The Yukon is preparing for an international tourist season with borders ready to accept visitors, the government said on March 17.
“This is big news as the Yukon prepares for a strong return of summer tourism and plans to welcome visitors from around the world to enjoy our territory,” said minister Ranj Pillai in the house on March 17.
“In 2022, Alaska is anticipating a return of cruise ships carrying about 1.5 million passengers over the upcoming summer. Cruise ship passengers will no doubt be looking forward to also visiting the Yukon,” he said.
The Whitehorse airport was cleared to receive international passengers last month, allowing German-airline Condor to resume summer flight schedules between the capital and Frankfurt.
Pillai said as of May 2 the Dawson City airport will be staffed with Canada Border Services Agency staff in order to welcome international flights.
The federal government announced on March 17 that fully vaccinated visitors to Canada would no longer need a COVID-19 test in order to enter the country starting on April 1. That applies to Canadian residents re-entering their country as well.
The move will allow Alaska-Yukon border traffic to flow again, particularly as cruise ship season is expected to come back in full force this summer.
The government said vaccinated people could still be subject to random molecular tests when they arrive at Canadian airports and land border crossings, and cruise-bound vacationers will still need to be tested before boarding. They will not need to take a test to get off the ship.
The new, more lenient border policy is possible because of Canada’s high vaccination rate and fewer cases of the virus being detected at the border, said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve seen a significant decrease in the rate of positivity of travellers entering into Canada,” Duclos said at a briefing Thursday.
“Canada’s tourism sector is ready to ensure the safety of travellers, employers and the communities in which they operate,” added federal Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault. “They are ready to welcome back the world.”
In the legislature on Thursday, NDP MLA Annie Blake also noted that the closed border has had implications for the territory beyond tourism.
“This is also important for so many First Nation families that have not been able to connect with their extended families in Alaska throughout the pandemic. Historically, those borders didn’t exist and allowed easier travelling and visiting,” she said.
Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber references a joint letter signed by the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon that called on the federal government to remove COVID-19 testing and for international arrivals to be made possible within the Yukon.
She thanked tourism operators for their persistence while asking what the government planned to do to address staffing challenges and property crime.
In his address Pillai said the government is working on streamlining immigration measures to deal with the labour shortage and said the RCMP and Crime Stoppers are addressing local crime incidents.
He thanked Tourism Industry Association and the Canadian Border Services for their work on the border.
“Everybody in this House knows the importance of tourism and they also know how much our tourism operators have gone through over the last two years,” he said. “I think we’re looking at a very good season in front of us.”
– With files from The Canadian Press
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