Travel agencies

Travel agencies report increase in bookings, but experts say Canada’s COVID-19 quarantine hotels are holding people back


People walk with their luggage outside Toronto Pearson International Airport on February 2, 2021.

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

As travel agencies report the surge in international bookings, experts and travelers alike say Canada’s requirement for quarantine hotels for returning travelers is the main factor preventing people from taking trips.

Major Canadian booking agencies like Flight Center and tripcentral.ca reported a massive month-over-month increase in bookings since April, with Flight Center reporting an almost 20% increase in bookings in April from March.

May is on track to be the busiest since the start of the pandemic, although the overall amount is negligible compared to the pre-pandemic period.

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“Over the last month, just because the vaccine rollout has really picked up, there are a lot of inquiries and people are starting to book for this fall, winter and the start of 2022,” Allison said. Wallace, spokesperson for Flight Center.

“People really seem to think, ‘I’m leaving this winter,’ there’s no doubt that a year without being able to travel makes people feel like they want something to look forward to.”

Richard Vanderlubbe, President of tripcentral.ca, said 20% of those polled in his company’s February survey said they would travel immediately, even when vaccination efforts had a long way to go and vaccine supply was limited.

As cases decline sharply and vaccination efforts resume, Vanderlubbe said there would be many more people willing to book travel now if Canada did not have a mandatory and expensive quarantine process for arrivals. international.

“They are so anxious to go there, as soon as something loosens on these restrictions, boom, there will be some demand,” Vanderlubbe said.

“People can tolerate the 14-day quarantine, but it’s the hotel that’s really stopping it. “

On Thursday, the panel of experts advising the federal government on COVID-19 issues said Canada should end the mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for returning travelers, saying clear communication and effective research contacts for returning travelers would be more effective at this time.

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The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest airlines, welcomed the expert panel’s advice and also called for personal quarantine periods to be reduced from 14 to seven days.

“We strongly support these recommendations, and they are in line with policy measures already implemented by other countries as they publish their plans for the safe restart of aviation and travel,” the president said and NACC CEO Mike McNaney.

“We must act on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in all parts of the country whose livelihoods depend on travel and tourism.”

However, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam say the federal government needs time to review the panel’s report and discuss it with the provinces before taking a decision. decision.

They were unable to give a timeline for when a decision on hotel quarantines would be made.

“As we head into the coming weeks and months with more and more vaccinations inside Canada, I think we can have a lot more flexibility at the border,” Tam said.

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“I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this space in the coming weeks. “

Vanderlubbe and Wallace say most of the bookings they see are for Mexico and the Caribbean in the fall and winter, as well as for Europe later in 2022. They say most travelers hope many COVID restrictions -19 will have been reduced by then.

Vanderlubbe said there could be a “flash” of demand in August for European destinations as well if restrictions ease before the end of the summer vacation.

Nora Downer, a 25-year-old Toronto resident, said her August trip to England to visit friends will depend on whether travel restrictions are relaxed.

She said she felt the need to book last month because she wanted to guarantee a low rate and settle her schedule before a possible boom in travel demand when Canada’s reopening continues.

Vanderlubbe said public sentiment towards travel has certainly changed over the past two months and that his company will receive hate messages if it sends out advertising emails even mentioning travel destinations a few months ago. barely.

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“Now, (if it’s advertising) for November onwards, we’re not getting the hindsight we used to have anymore,” Vanderlubbe said.

Still, people like Downer say they are on trial over their decision to book a trip later in August, even though she expects to receive her second vaccine by then.

“When I told my parents I was going to go, there was really a judgment there, like ‘what do you think you are doing? Said Downer.

“I think travel is one of the things that people worry about the most.”

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