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Churchill tour operators call for clarity around border rules amid industry struggles

The Churchill Beluga Whale Tour Operators Association says confusion over COVID-19 border restrictions continues to impact international tourism to the area.

CBWTOA president Wally Daudrich told Global News that international visitors to the northern Manitoba town, known as the polar bear capital of the world, make up more than 90 per cent of annual tourists, and without them, the industry continues to struggle.

“Internationally, other countries are opening wide open, so their tourism industry is starting to flourish — and being one of the largest countries, geographically, in the world, our borders are largely still just closed,” Daudrich said.

“Other countries, like the United States, places in Europe and such, they announced very clearly that their borders were open and there was no interim fuzzy or grey stage they had to go through.

“Our clients are calling us and asking us a lot of questions.”

The association, in a statement earlier this month, said the situation has resulted in fewer tours and hotel rooms booked, as well as less work for many across the usually busy sector.

Daudrich said he would ideally like to see the federal government make a clear statement about who can and can’t visit the country.

“It makes it very difficult for us to operate the way we were pre-pandemic,” he said.

“Open the borders and make it clear with an announcement — and not piecemeal, a little bit at a time, because it’s very confusing for our clients who want to book and want to come to Churchill, want to come to Canada.”

Daudrich said a significant percentage of Churchill tourists are older and don’t necessarily have the equipment or the technological know-how to use the ArriveCan app, which the federal government requires travellers to use before entering and leaving Canada.

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