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Canada is starting to slowly reopen -- but Americans still can't visit for tourism

July 06, 2021
6 min read
Canada is starting to slowly reopen -- but Americans still can't visit for tourism
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Travel is picking up around the world. But even as far-flung countries begin to welcome back tourists with open arms, one country had kept its door firmly shut: Canada.

Leaders in Canada and the United States have extended the nonessential travel ban on a near-monthly basis since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But on July 5, the two countries eased restrictions for the first time — a move before eventually reopening the border entirely over the next few weeks.

Canada now allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to skip a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in the country. Those entering by air no longer need to spend their first three days in the country at a government-approved hotel. However, unlike some countries allowing entry to vaccinated foreigners, most Americans still aren't allowed to enter.

Here’s what you need to know.

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Canada is starting to reopen slowly

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There are various reasons why Canada tightened restrictions on travel.

Canada had a very public delayed vaccination program, and while those delays seem to be improving, just 37% of Canadians are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the country has recorded over 1.4 million positive cases and over 26,000 deaths.

Canada’s policy throughout the pandemic has been one of exercising caution, even if other nations clamor to reopen. However, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently moved to make travel easier for Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

“We’re very hopeful that we’re going to see new steps on reopening announced in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said during a news conference. “We’re going to make sure that we’re not seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases because nobody wants to go back to further restrictions after having done so much and sacrificed so much to get to this point.”

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Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are now permitted to enter the country from the U.S. must have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days to be eligible for quarantine-free entry. Travelers must present proof of their vaccination records through the ArriveCan app.

But if you don’t fall into one of those categories, that means tourism is still pretty much off-limits -- at least for now. The new guidelines still don't allow for U.S. citizens to travel to Canada. Despite the restrictions set to remain in place until at least July 21, there are some indications the border could finally reopen in just a few weeks.

But with vaccinations in the country on the rise and positive cases down, and with several large countries opening for tourism, some think it’s time for Canada to relax its policy further.

The travel industry has clamored for travel corridors they believe would help the sector rebound from pandemic-related losses. There is no indication right now that there's a U.S.-Canada travel corridor in the works like there is in some other locations, like the European Union, for instance.

The EU added the United States to its so-called travel “white list,” which would will allow vaccinated visitors to skip quarantine requirements and move freely between the 27 EU nations. However, it's not a proper travel corridor yet, since the EU is still looking for the U.S. to relax its travel restrictions on visitors from the EU.

And countries significantly dependent on tourism, like Mexico -- which made $25 billion on tourism in 2019 -- never shut their doors at all.

Implications of Canada’s travel ban

(Photo by Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock)

It's evident that Canadian travel is on the upswing, and a loosening of some restrictions is a positive sign for more rules to be relaxed later.

There were just 150,000 trips to Canada by non-Canadians in April, the last month data was available, down 6% from March. But even though people aren’t coming into Canada in waves, Canadians are traveling abroad -- even if they had to quarantine upon return. Trips abroad by Canadian residents were up nearly 19% in April.

Still, the travel ban ostensibly affected Canada’s travel industry, putting pressure on the Canadian and U.S. governments.

To put into context how vital U.S. travel is to Canada, one can look at travel to the Rainbow Bridge Port of Entry or the U.S. side of the Niagara Falls border. Just 1.7 million people crossed the Buffalo-Niagara Falls border in 2020 in a personal vehicle, a sharp decline from the 10.5 million in 2019. And even with some travel restarting, just 92,000 people have crossed that border by a personal vehicle this year, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.

Tourism generated $105 billion and supported one in 10 Canadian jobs, according to one report. And the U.S. Travel Association said the U.S. loses $1.5 billion every month that the border remains closed between the two countries.

People on the other side of that border are feeling the effects and will likely continue until the ban is over. The mayor of Niagra Falls, Ontario, home to the eponymous group of waterfalls, said last month that U.S. tourism was “right up there with oxygen,” while Canada's Chamber of Commerce head noted that it had “no idea” what the government would do after the current travel ban expires. And in May, Air Canada, Canada’s national airline, said the government needed to “act faster.”

These are strong words from some of the most powerful players in Canada. And judging by what Canada’s leaders have said publicly, perhaps pressure from industry leaders has finally pushed the government to act.But is it enough, given the ban still means tourism isn't allowed? After all, Americans are still barred from traveling to Canada for tourism purposes. Trudeau said on July 5 that "things aren’t normal yet," but in many parts of the world, it's back to business as usual.

"Nobody wants us to move too fast and have to reimpose restrictions as case numbers rise like we’re seeing elsewhere in the world,″ Trudeau said on July 5, according to the Associated Press. "We need to do this right."

Trudeau's measured tone is consistent with how Canada and the U.S. appear to have handled the border issue for the past year, but it might not be enough for travelers on both sides hoping for a swift end to the ban.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023