Destinations around the world rely heavily on tourism to survive. But at a time when the government has advisories in place against non essential travel, how does one promote travel responsibly in the age of COVID-19? Travel Courier caught up with advisors who travelled internationally during the pandemic to learn more about their reasons for going and what they learned in the process.
Although she received some backlash, Pauline Blacoe of Shine Travel was met with overwhelmingly positive comments on social media after posting photos and videos from a fam trip to The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun in November.
“I had many that noted how irresponsible it was of me to travel during a pandemic, but I was doing my job. It was time. I know once the two week quarantine is lifted or other options, ie. rapid testing are in place, many will want to travel — many do now but are leery because of the unknown,” Blacoe tells Travel Courier. “The title of my Facebook album was Leading by Example, which was exactly what I was trying to do, for my clients, but also for others within the industry.”
Although none of her clients have decided to travel yet, she says many were put at ease by seeing the process and safety protocols in place throughout her travel journey, and she received lots of messages and inquiries while in Mexico.
Since she works from home and already doesn’t leave the house much aside from getting essentials like groceries, Blacoe says the 14-day isolation upon return was easy for her to manage, and already has plans in place to travel to again in January with the Costa Rica Tourist Board.
“At this point, I believe it is totally the clients’ decision. It’s difficult to market sales to clients because many are just not ready and that’s okay,” she says. “A few take aways that I had in general. Air flight was amazing, the only difference was wearing a mask. And once at the resort, it didn’t feel weird or different at all. It could very much be just a normal vacation, except with a few added protocols like masks and hand sanitizers.”
For Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise Travel Ltd., the decision to travel during the pandemic stemmed from her desire to better be able to answer her clients’ questions and concerns.
“I had been unable to answer some questions from clients regarding airport safety protocols, as well as the other components of travel so I thought I would make this a research trip,” says Hansen Davey, who travelled to Jamaica in September on a Palace Resort fam. “It is difficult to explain to clients what travel is like during this time of COVIDd-19 so it seemed wise to try it myself so I could set minds at ease, or issue warnings, depending on my experience. I would do it again to a different destination for comparison purposes.”
As someone who lives alone, she says the quarantine was not an issue.
“I made sure to stock my pantry well before departure. My daughter came by with a loaf of bread and fresh vegetables and some dairy at the halfway mark. It was an outdoor drop off,” she says. “Personally, I’m adventurous and adaptable so for me, it isn’t daunting or challenging.”
That said, she says travellers need to be armed with pertinent information about the destination that they are thinking about traveling to, especially entry requirements.
“I encourage my clients to check the government websites of the destination for up-to-date requirements. I also make sure that they know to check that website at least weekly before departure in case there are updates that they need to be aware of. I also ask that they check during their stay for updates as well. I think that as long as they follow the protocols in destination as well as the ability to abide by the 14 day quarantine upon returning to Canada, there should be no issues.”
More importantly, she arms them with as much information as possible to ensure that they make the right decision for themselves.
“I do hope that my clients will remain loyal to me and my services so that when they are ready to confidently travel again, that they will allow me to assist them,” she says.
Hansen Davey is happy to see that Canadian airlines and tour operators are being proactive in offering COVID-19 insurance coverage for clients, which goes along way in giving them peace of mind.
“I promote responsible travel, making sure that my clients are aware that things will be different in destination and that as long as they are willing and able to adapt to these changes, there is no reason that they can’t have a very enjoyable trip/vacation,” she says. “Ultimately, it is the client’s decision but it is up to us, as advisors, to put their minds at ease if we think that it is a good decision that the client is making, but also to caution them if we think that is necessary.”
After returning home from Jamaica, Hansen Davey received several follow up calls to ensure she was staying at home.
“I can tell you from experience that there are follow up calls to ensure that you are, in fact, quarantining. I was glad to see that. There are also apps to download for tracking,” she says. “My advice is simply to do what is right for you. Be willing to comply with all the protocols in airports, on airlines, on transfers, in resorts and hotels and countries that you choose to travel to. If you don’t feel that you are able to adapt, then it is probably best for all concerned that you stay at home.”