From sorely needed tourism dollars spent at struggling small businesses to higher costs for leisure and business travellers, the federal government still has Kelowna-Lake Country closed for international travel business.
In addition to the impact this has locally on residents and businesses, the airport director stated the extended closure has cost the airport itself an estimated $2.5 million since the spring of 2020. Since YLW is a municipally-owned airport, this hit directly impacts the City of Kelowna.
Quebec City’s airport and a second Toronto airport recently re-opened to international travellers, despite having smaller passenger numbers than YLW. The fact that Kelowna is the only airport on the list of the top 10 busiest Canadian airports that remains closed is completely unacceptable.
YLW has been a leader in preparing for the resumption of international travel. In March 2021, they put in place a fully certified lab to conduct Covid-19 testing on-site and have the capacity to conduct pandemic surveillance.
These are reasons why I wrote to the federal transport minister back in July for answers as to why YLW remains closed to international travel, the metrics used to justify the closure and a timeline for re-opening. I have not received a response.
I followed up earlier this month to ask for the full re-opening of YLW, and once again questioned what metrics were used to justify the international travel closure and what the timeline is for re-opening. That would allow small businesses and the tourism and hospitality sectors, as well as airlines and airport staff to plan for the future—stability that is sorely needed in these industries.
Again, as of the writing of this report, I still have not received a response.
But it’s not just me. I know that the airport itself has corresponded with various government agencies, asking the same questions and it has not received any clarity.
Local business leaders are also speaking out. Dan Rogers, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce executive director, recently stated: “Kelowna International Airport is a major hub in B.C. and has a massive impact on the economy in the region and province, and we need to see the federal government take immediate steps to help YLW rejoin the international community,”
Michael J. Ballingall of Big White Ski Resort told CBC: “We want to kick-start the economic recovery,” adding the lack of transparency is creating uncertainty.
“There's a large thirst for people to come up here,” he said.
Millions of dollars in revenue and our local economic recovery are put at risk each day YLW remains closed. This disadvantages us compared to other airports that have had their international designation status returned.
I will continue to advocate on behalf of our community to have our airport re-opened safely to international travel, and the economic benefits and certainty that come with it.
As always, please be sure to reach out if you have any thoughts, ideas, or concerns on this or anything else, or if you need any assistance with federal services.If you’d like to stay up to date on my work in both Ottawa and Kelowna-Lake Country, visit tracygraymp.ca to join my newsletter or send a note to [email protected].