TORONTO — As Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome spread across the Pacific Ocean from Asia to Canada, Toronto limousine operators already dealing with a sluggish economy and the effects of the war in Iraq were faced with one more uphill battle to fight.
“SARS is just one of the things that affected the industry very badly up here,” said Philip Bozzelli, treasurer of the Ontario Limousine Owners Association and owner of Escort Limousine. “We had a lot of big conferences that [were] cancelled, and the amount of tourism that has been coming into Toronto dropped dramatically – the hotels laid off a third of their staff.”
He said his company experienced a 15% drop in business due to SARS-related problems.
The travel advisory placed on Toronto by the World Health Organization was lifted in late April and limousine operators’ outlook for the summer is reasonably good.
In total, about 300 cases of the severe form of pneumonia accompanied by a fever were reported in Toronto.
But Bozzelli said the city was always a safe travel destination and place to live.
“The picture of people walking around with masks and gloves, you don’t see it up here in Canada,” he said. “The media [blew] it all out of proportion.”
Bozzelli noted that he had not taken any special precautions for his drivers during the SARS outbreak.