While operators across America are finally seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and experiencing an uptick of business largely thanks to the massive vaccine rollout, Canadian businesses are still struggling—particularly those who service the US-Canada border. Essentially closed since 2020, Canada has greatly restricted those coming in and out of the country, which is a problem when the North American partners’ economies are so closely linked. Even with vaccination rates above 50 percent in Canada, the Canadian government requires a 3-day quarantine in a government facility followed by a 14-day at-home quarantine for travelers coming into the country.
One such company affected by the situation up north is Absolute Styling Limousine. The Vancouver, B.C.-based company occupies a rare corner in today’s chauffeured ground transportation space as they are one of the few high-end car services that is also a conversion operation. In addition to providing luxury transportation, Absolute Styling is a Transport Canada and NHTSA-certified Limousine Bus Manufacturer, and certified Mercedes Master Upfitter.
Absolute Styling experienced a healthy growth since its founding in 2013, and maintained a close relationship with Air Canada, driving its executives and first-class passengers. In February 2019, Absolute Styling moved its operations to a 20,000-square-foot facility at the Vancouver International Airport in Air Canada’s hangar, which offered plenty of space to run both operations.
“In March 2020 everything came to a standstill,” says Absolute Styling President Lorenzo Armani. “Air Canada virtually stopped flying and lost 90 percent of their passengers—and so did we! With no flights coming in and a general uncertainty, I had to lay off all my staff at the end of March 2020 thinking that it would only last a few months.”
Fortunately, the company’s position as a conversion business brought much-needed resources. Although Armani says that his Sprinter builds were at half capacity in September 2020, he credits conversions with sustaining the company through the pandemic. After being forced to sell all 15 of their vehicles on the transportation service side in June 2020, Absolute Styling began a slow rebound and started to rebuild its fleet at the beginning of 2021. Today, the company offers 2021 Cadillac Escalades, Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans, and custom Sprinter vans.
However, there is a silver lining on the horizon not only for Absolute Styling, but for all US and Canadian operators who work across the borders. Effective July 5, fully vaccinated travelers—who already have the right to enter the country—can avoid being subject to federal quarantine requirements. In addition, travelers arriving by air will no longer be required to stay at a costly government-authorized hotel. To be considered fully vaccinated, Canadian visitors must have received all the doses of a Health Canada-approved vaccine (or combination of vaccines) at least 14 days before their arrival and show the proper documentation. While there is currently no date when the border will be fully open to everyone, Prime Minister Trudeau has said that he will consider opening when countrywide vaccinations reach 75 percent.
“We are now vaccinated over 70 percent in Province of B.C., and over 50-60 percent across Canada,” says Armani. “Now we can really see the light at the end of the long Canadian tunnel. I look forward to see our American friends, family, and business partners and be able to go anywhere.”