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Ottawa-based travel agent Cindy Almond has had the equivalent of 75-100 room reservations lost over the past three months.
Despite the blow, the founder of Romance and Foodie Travel isn’t eligible for financial support from the government.
“[I’ve had] over 50 trip cancellations… and I won’t be eligible for government support or anything because I’ll still make ‘enough’ but the hours and hours of work unpaid gives me the shivers,” she says. “Still, I thank my blessings for the remaining and new clients that keep me going.”
Similarly, travel advisor Ashley Doell says the impact on business due to the rapid spread of Omicron and added testing measures on arrival have been nothing short of “devastating.”
“I think the only word you could use to describe how it’s affected business is devastating. In November, prior to the on-arrival testing announcement, people were very much ready to get out and travel again, emails were coming in and things were really looking up. It felt like the rebound was finally starting,” says Doell, a travel consultant with TPI in Warman, SK. “Once the advisory was put back in place it definitely paused new travel inquiries and bookings but I was finding many people still wanted to follow through with their existing travel plans regardless.”
However, with all the positive cases popping up now, she says travellers are very concerned about testing positive and being stranded in destination.
“Many clients who once were comfortable travelling during the advisory are second-guessing their plans, and more cancellations are coming in,” she notes. “The PCR test to return still remains to be the #1 obstacle we’re facing.”
That said, all of her clients who decided to move ahead with their travel have no regrets.
“Clients have had wonderful holidays and were all very glad they decided to go ahead with their plans but were very thankful they booked with a travel advisor to help walk them through everything,” she says. “It’s a lot of info if you don’t know where to look and I think more and more people are starting to realize that.”
So far none of her clients have tested positive in destination or in the tests administered back on arrival in Canada.
Similarly, Mary LaRocque of Marlin Travel in Peterborough, says clients were still moving ahead with travel plans in December, but the agency started fielding a “flood of cancellations” when testing measures and restrictions increased.
“Truly unfortunate for some that didn’t need to cancel as new rules and restrictions weren’t implemented immediately, but many decided not to take the risk and travel at this time,” she says.
LaRocque says ongoing flight cancellations are another burden for staff to deal with.
“A lot of the work that has been done in the past six months had to be redone again as they had to find alternates for those customers,” she explains. “In essence each booking that was affected had to either be cancelled or rebooked. So much time is spent putting out the fires that it has been mentally draining for agents. This new travel landscape was once again so fluid. Everything changed daily. Long wait times to get answers added to the frustration and the travel industry was handcuffed once again.”
Unlike Doell, she says some agency clients have tested positive in destination but it was a breeze to deal with.
“Some clients have had to stay in destination after testing positive, after a couple of days they were on their way home,” she says. “The most important thing that we heard from many of our travellers is that they felt very safe in destination and at the resorts.”
In fact, she says some of these clients have even rebooked to go away again this winter.
“As travel professionals, it is our job to reassure our clients and let them know that we are there for them every step of the way,” she says. “Giving them all the options to make an informed decision they can then decide what is the right for them. There are clients that are determined to follow through with their travel plans and those that decide it is better to wait.”
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