Electronic Travel Authorization Should Not Deter Tourism and Trade Opportunities, says Canada's Airports

Aviation sector concerned about new fee, but sees eTA as opportunity to improve travel options for some.

OTTAWA, Dec. 19, 2013 /CNW/ - The Canadian Airports Council submitted comments today urging the federal government to take a "light touch" approach to its new electronic travel authorization (eTA) requirement. Under the proposed rules, all foreign nationals travelling from visa exempt countries, other than citizens of the United States, would be required to obtain an eTA prior to travelling to Canada. However, the Canadian Airports Council also recognizes the eTA as an opportunity for the government to improve Canada's overall visitor entry system.

"Canada's airports appreciate the security role that the eTA can provide. Nevertheless, we want to ensure that the eTA not add an undue burden and cost for visitors to Canada," said CAC President Daniel-Robert Gooch. "On the upside, we hope to see eTA considered as an alternative to a full-fledged visa for some lower risk countries."

Countries affected by the proposed eTA requirement represent the biggest source of foreign tourists and markets for Canadian exports. The top ten of these countries delivered 2.6 million visitors to Canada in 2012, representing approximately 56% of all non-U.S. international visitors. Considering each long-haul visitor spends an average of $1,600 a trip, this adds up to about $4 billion in spending.

In its submission to the government, the Canadian Airports Council highlighted three areas of consideration:

That eTA not act as a deterrent for travel

It is essential that the eTA be low cost and not serve as a deterrent to travel. The various fees and taxes the federal government imposes on aviation already position Canada poorly when it comes to cost competitiveness. Adding to this burden should not be taken without considerable regard to the impact government fees already are having on the sector.

Eligibility for transiting passengers

It would further complicate the visa process and place Canada at a competitive disadvantage if travellers were required to get both a U.S. Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) and an eTA to transit through a Canadian hub on their way to the United States. As such, the ESTA should be honoured for all transiting passengers to the U.S., including those originating from visa exempt countries as well as those transiting through Canada under transit without visa programs.

Applicability as an alternative screening tool

While visas have a valid security role in screening potential visitors to Canada from countries for which there has been an identified need, the eTA should serve as an alternative to the requirement for a full visa in some cases. Consideration of the eTA as an alternative to a full scale visa should be fast tracked for visitors from lower risk countries.

Countries whose residents currently require a visa are among Canada's fastest growing trading partners and sources for tourists.  Brazil, China, India and Mexico alone brought nearly 700,000 visitors to Canada in 2012.  The potential to expand tourism from these growing economies is significant and use of an eTA instead of a visa, when appropriate, could greatly help Canada grow this business.

"A more nimble system for the entry of foreign nationals to Canada will help facilitate international trade and the long-term prosperity of Canada's tourism sector," said Mr. Gooch. "International direct and connecting traffic are important and growing businesses for Canada's aviation sector. More foreign travellers flying to and through Canada means new routes, and more capacity and greater competition on existing routes."

About the Canadian Airports Council

The Canadian Airports Council (CAC), a division of Airports Council International-North America, is the voice for Canada's airports community.  Its 46 members represent more than 120 airports, including all of the privately operated National Airports System (NAS) airports and many municipal airports across Canada. Together, CAC members handle virtually all of the nation's air cargo and international passenger traffic, and 95% of domestic passenger traffic. In 2012, Canada's air transportation industry had a $34.9 billion economic footprint, supported 405,000 jobs, and federal taxes of more than $7 billion.

SOURCE: Canadian Airports Council

For further information:

Elias Rassi
Manager of Communications and Public Affairs
Canadian Airports Council
(613) 560-9302 ext 15

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