By: Ian Stalker
From grim to grimmer.
Travel agents who struggled through a tough 2020 say their businesses have taken a further hit because of Ottawa’s latest moves to curb international travel, including the mandatory hotel stays for those returning to this country.
Measures announced earlier this year to try to contain coronavirus included the quarantine hotel stays that were originally expected to cost a hefty $2,000 for those who would be cleared to leave after three nights.
The latest steps taken by the federal government quickly put a further damper on outbound travel, say four Toronto-area travel agents contacted by Travel Courier.
“Yes, it has increased talk about travel in the neighbourhood. All negative,” says Paul Nielsen of Paragon Travel, citing among other things the “poor introduction (of the hotel stays) cementing a number of $2,000 in their (clients) heads.”
Nielsen also faulted the federal government for what he calls the “poor clarification” following the announcement, and the “atrocious” reservation system.
“So, it eliminated all talk of (booking) reservations,” says Nielsen, who reports he’s now seeing “zero business. When we can convince people to discuss travel, we can switch their minds to positive dreams, but no bookings.”
Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise in turn reports that, “There is no business so it’s down, way down. Certainly the idea of a mandatory hotel stay, badly planned by the way, at a hotel upon arrival back in Canada has put the brakes on the few people that were thinking of a winter getaway. My own trip to attend a Quincennera in Acapulco in late April has been cancelled. It’s a shame but it is what it is. I’ll go another time.
“I have lots of clients enquiring for Europe for the fall, but we will book as the travel industry as well as the pandemic situation is more stable. The additional work required to make changes or to cancel, chase credits or refunds is not worth booking until things improve,” she continues.
Bonnie Eccles of Moreno Travel says the hotel stays have had a “huge impact on business. But, more importantly it has a huge impact on returning travellers globally. Hundreds were trying to get home before the enforced three-night hotel stay at the client’s expense was enforced.”
Eccles actually had a good two months of business in 2020 and even a “few good bookings” in the fall, but as Covid-19 lockdowns continued clients who had booked travel for February and March cancelled because of the suspension of flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.
“I have personally lost three flights,” Eccles adds. “Last year to Wimbledon, Christmas in Medicine Hat with my sister and family, and [recently] to Puerto Vallarta for my two-week holiday. I keep trying to remain positive but we have many more months to work this out.”
Sevan Travel’s Roger Boyajian says he has clients who were “flabbergasted” by the announcement that they would have to stay in a hotel that they wouldn’t be able to choose upon returning to this country.
“Business is almost not available and the few passengers we had had their flights cancelled or postponed and instead of refunding the passengers, credit vouchers were issued,” he reports.
Boyajian says his agency hasn’t yet gotten any feedback yet from its few passengers about hotel stays.