Visa decision panics industry

Mexican travellers and the Canadian tourism industry that serves them were sent into panic mode Tuesday after the sudden announcement of a new visa requirement for visitors from that country.

Mexican tourist Borris Frias takes a picture of his travel partners Noe Montano

Mexican tourist Borris Frias takes a picture of his travel partners Noe Montano

OTTAWA — Mexican travellers and the Canadian tourism industry that serves them were sent into panic mode Tuesday after the sudden announcement of a new visa requirement for visitors from that country.

Visas were also re-applied to citizens entering Canada from the Czech Republic. Both decisions were based on a growing number of refugee claims.

The Czech government responded by recalling its ambassador and imposing visa requirements on Canadian diplomats and business travellers.

But it was the Mexican visa requirement, announced by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney late Monday, that will be felt most acutely in Canada.

Mexico was the sixth largest source of tourists to Canada last year, and the numbers had been steadily increasing. Problem is, it’s the also the largest source of refugee claims.

A Canadian Tourism Commission website geared toward Mexicans, called Escape from the Routine, was still boasting that a “valid passport and return plane ticket is all you need” to visit Canada.

Tour operators, hotel owners and other Canadian businesses that depend on Mexican tourism described the decision, announced late Tuesday, as a “bomb” that would affect their revenues and their staffing levels.

The industry is calling on the Conservative government to delay the visa requirement until November.

“What really hurts about this is that there’s was no warning at all . . . and all of a sudden, basically the day the doors were supposed to open on the beginning of the peak season, they’re being shut in our face a little bit,” said Hume Rogers, of Ottawa’s Capital Hotel and Suites.