Hickey believes a high standard of health and safety for Canada can be maintained through a targeted, responsible and data-informed way, so that travellers are confident their health is being protected.
“Blanket restrictions and policies are no longer as useful. For instance, not all countries and regions present an equal risk, and we shouldn’t treat them as such. For international visitors, it’s time to mirror the measured and safe approaches taken in other areas – like the E.U., where they have started to re-open borders to safe countries,” she says. “Heightened hygiene and bio-safety measures are being adopted across travel and tourism to allow for safe travel, with confidence. (For example, travellers avoid quarantine if they sign a compliance certificate at their lodging that certifies they received a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.)”
Before they readily travel again, she says consumers need to feel a sense of confidence.
“Consistent application of hygiene protocols like wearing masks and distancing are critical for that,” she says, noting that Kensington Tours has instituted a Safe Travel Certified policy, which is in alignment with the World Travel & Tourism Council certification protocol. “Options that offer a tailored itinerary and keep travellers apart from crowded clusters of tourists, such as Kensington Tours’ custom private-guided approach, will also go a long way to building confidence.”
Finally, she says working with experts that consumers can trust while planning and booking their travel will be crucial.
“Many people will seek out reputable agents and tour operators, instead of trying to book by themselves online,” she says. “There’s real value in working with a travel partner who is fully informed about the destination, and who can also be a strong advocate for you if the situation on the ground changes while you’re traveling.”
As for destinations requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test for entry, she notes they believe it is making a positive difference to people.
“It’s a way of ensuring that you’re maintaining a high standard of health and safety, while recognizing that most people simply can’t afford the time or expense of adding weeks of quarantine time onto their travel,” she adds. “It’s impossible to predict how long such entry tests will be required; I’m sure that each of these jurisdictions is monitoring things closely, and we’re all aware of how quickly the situation can change. All we know is that it’s a good step forward.”
Despite the challenges the industry has faced in the last few months, she says history has shown us that travel is one of the world’s most resilient industries.
“While we don’t know exactly when travellers will be back in force, we can be certain that they will be back,” Hickey says. “We’ve done a lot of work so far as an industry to build confidence and re-establish trust, and of course we’ll have to continue that work. We believe that travel is a fundamental need for people; we’re almost hard-wired to want to explore and connect with each other. And we feel strongly that Kensington Tours is well positioned to serve the person who wants to get all that from travel – today, and in the future.”
In the meantime, she says Kensington Tours has been working hard to reignite people’s passion for travel while answering the new realities of COVID-19. To help agents and clients feel more confident about bookings, they’ve extended the “Book risk-free, guaranteed” program, which allows clients to make changes to new bookings until just seven days before departure.
“Clients get more of a sense of control over their plans, and a sense of reassurance that their investment is protected if things change. That’s the kind of confidence builder that your agent is much more likely to know about with their industry insight, and make sure that you as their client take advantage of,” she says. “We’ve worked very hard to support the agent community over the past few months, doing regular outreach, sharing information and trying to keep the passion for travel strong even during what are admittedly some pretty dark times.”