Visa process improvements cited as key to Canadian air transport policy

According to a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada, streamlined visa processes to make Canada friendlier to foreign visitors could lead to major benefits for the Canadian air transportation industry and the broader economy.

This recommendation is one of several outlined in the report entitled “Growing Canada’s Economy: A New National Air Transportation Policy.”

“Visa requirements for travel to Canada have a major impact on air travel—a requirement typically dampens travel demand to Canada by 30 per cent or more,” said Vijay Gill, director, policy research at the Conference Board and co-author of the report. “While they play an important security role, visa requirements are also a major impediment to air travel because of the direct cost, time required and general inconvenience involved.”

According to the report, Canada’s air transportation industry generates about $35-billion annually and supports more than 400,000 jobs, but the full potential of the industry is not being realized.

The economic footprint of the aviation industry is based on the Conference Board’s analysis of direct, indirect and induced effects. Along with generating almost $35-billion in gross domestic product, the aviation industry contributes more than $12-billion to federal and provincial treasuries, including more than$7-billion in taxes.

“Aviation fuels Canada’s economy in ways not everybody realizes right away,” said Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council. “This [Conference Board] report outlines ways to help us maintain strong and vibrant air carriers and airports which are important not only for the industry, but also for the Canadian economy and job growth.”

The Conference Board report outlines elements of a new National Air Transportation Policy based on three broad areas: providing economic and social benefit to Canadians, border and security facilitation, and enhancing the industry’s competitiveness.

In addition to streamlining visa requirements, some of the other recommendations and policy considerations include:

  • Enhancing transit without visa programs, allowing Canadian airlines and airports to better compete for connecting international travellers;
  • Considering reforms that would help airports increase their commercial revenues, such as Arrivals Duty Free;
  • Examining the full liberalization of international air cargo markets;
  • Making the current federal infrastructure program for small and medium airports more inclusive and appropriately funded;
  • Defining clearly the role and performance of the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency and tying its funding more formally to Air Transport Security Charge revenues;
  • Encouraging all provinces to exempt transborder and international flights from aviation fuel taxes; and
  • Funding some security costs from non-user sources.

The report was jointly written by The Conference Board of Canada and SLI Airports and Aviation Group. Financial support was provided by the Canadian Airports Council and the National Airlines Council of Canada.