Published on: May 30, 2017
Canada Unveils New Tourism Plan
The Candian government has unveiled a "New Tourism Vision", a 20-point plan aiming to boost tourism numbers by 30 percent by the year 2021. The plan lays out a comprehensive strategy for affecting the desired change, based on the three pillars of marketing, access, and product. Amongst the multitude of planned changes is some developments to the eTA and Canada visa policies.
Why Canada Is Changing
The Canadian Government has developed this plan to grow international tourism because it has identified a critical opportunity to expand a vital part of the Canadian economy. One in eleven Canadian jobs depend on the tourism industry, and it is the number one employer of Canadian youth. Tourism is one of the world's fastest growing trades, and the Canadian government sees the chance to benefit from the global trend. Canada has set specific targets to be one of the Top Ten most visited countries globally by 2025, to increase international overnight visits by 2021, and to double the number of tourists from China by 2021.
The MAP to Tourism Growth
The Canadian Government has identified three necessary "pillars" of growth. The first is Marketing, strengthening existing markets and developing new ones through a combination of new and traditional media. The second pillar is improving Access to Canada for international tourists. These plans include making it cheaper to travel, reducing travel time, and the proposed immigration changes. The third and final pillar is to build on Canada's tourism Product through continued innovation. Access is the primary factor affecting Canada immigration policy today.
The Existing eTA and Visa System
The vast majority of tourists arriving in Canada by air will require either a Canada eTA (electronic travel authorization) or a tourist visa. eTAs can be arranged online by filling out a form and paying a small fee. The visa can be requested online or in person but may require an interview or a doctor's appointment before it is authorized.
Visa Requirement Change for Mexican Nationals
One of the points in Canada's New Tourism Vision is lifting the requirement of a tourism visa for Mexican nationals. Previously, a visa has been required for all Mexican citizens arriving by air to Canada. Mexico is one of the fastest growing markets for Canadian tourism, so the government has elected to change Canada immigration policy to allow Mexican nationals to use the simpler eTA system instead. This should encourage the continued growth of air travel between Mexico and Canada, which will benefit both Canadian tourism and Mexican tourists.
Expanding Canada's Visa Application Centre Network
For those travelers who require a visitor visa, the Canadian Visa Application Centres are often the first stop. The centers are also vital for anyone who must apply for a study permit, a work permit, or other Canadian travel documents. Prime Minister Trudeau announced while in China that Canada would be opening seven new Visa Application Centres, which will more than double the current number within China. The goal of this expension is to aid in increasing the number of visits from China during 2018's Canada-China Year of Tourism.
Changes to the Electronic Travel Authorization Program
A number of visa-required countries have been added to the electronic travel authorization program, so eligible nationals of those countries may travel with a Canada eTA instead of a visa. These changes maintain the safety of Canada's immigration policies while allowing trade and travel to grow between the selected countries and Canada. The countries that have been identified for the expansion of the program are Brazil, Bulgaria, and Romania, and eligible travelers from these countries are now able to apply for an eTA to fly to or transit through Canada. Travelers are considered eligible if they have held a Canadian visa within the last ten years, or if they currently hold a valid U.S. visa.
Conclusion: The Benefits of the Planned Changes
The planned changes will benefit Canada's tourism industry, but also tourists from the affected countries. In particular, Chinese tourists stand to gain from the vast improvements to the Chinese network of Canadian Visa Application Centres, and from the focus on tourism between the two countries for the 2018 China-Canada Year of Tourism. Eligible travelers arriving by air from Bulgaria, Romania, or Brazil will also benefit greatly from the ability to apply for an eTA instead of a Canada visa, although tourists arriving by other methods or who have not held the appropriate visas will not be affected. The policy changes are also noteworthy for how they will likely improve relations between the affected countries, as Canada moves to present itself as welcoming to their citizens. This improvement is likely to encourage business links and strengthen diplomatic ties.