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Those in the travel industry are keeping a wary eye on the Delta variant of coronavirus, nervous that it may somewhat derail a travel industry rebound that seemed to be well underway in much of the world earlier this summer
The Delta variant is being blamed for a spike in numbers in this and many other countries, leading some to fear that the easing of restrictions linked to coronavirus may have to be slowed or possibly rolled back,with travel subsequently taking another hit.
“I’m very concerned,” says Abdalah Castillo of the Dominican Republic Tourism Board, adding it “must be a concern for all of us.”
However, Castillo says he still remains “very optimistic” about a Dominican Republic tourism recovery, praising his government’s response to the pandemic. Among other things, virtually all of those working in the Dominican Republic’s tourism trade have been vaccinated, while health protocols aimed at curbing the virus have been implemented in all facets of the country’s tourism trade, including hotels, airports and restaurants.
“In other words, the D.R. is completely ready to ensure a safe and joyful vacation right now and the future. Personally, I expect a champagne effect in the bookings for this winter.”
The number of Canadians visiting the D.R. plunged earlier during the pandemic but has been rebounding.
“At this point, I will advise Canadians to book as soon as they can if they want to be in D.R. this winter,” Castillo stated.
Michele Martinson, Aeromexico’s Canadian director of sales, said there’s no sign yet that the Delta variant is cutting into Aeromexico bookings.
“We will continue monitoring our bookings in all regions where the Delta variant is present, as we do not yet have any findings that our bookings have been affected by this variant,” she said. “In terms of our load factors we have not yet identified the domestic or the international market to be affected by the Delta variant. The domestic market has reached up to 144% recovery vs. 2019, followed by our Mexico-United States market that, along with our partner Delta Air Lines, we have reached 87% recovery compared to pre-pandemic levels, and with stable load factors.
“We are currently seeking to gradually resume operations to pre-pandemic levels while continuing to offer differentiated products and services. We expect to continue this growth and maintain a stable load factor, as we continue operating with our safety and security standards, and taking into consideration the presence of all new variants.”
Martinson said Aeromexico is aware the main travel concern these days is safety and health. “For this reason, we designed and implemented measures that are found in our Health and Sanitization Management System, with which we have implemented to protect our passengers and collaborators since the beginning of the pandemic. This process is applied in all stages of travel and in our operation and infrastructure both on the ground and in the air, including nowadays with the Delta variant.
“We continue to monitor all related events and new variant discoveries daily and we will also continue to apply all these safety measures. We continue to guarantee our clients the best travel experience, even with the Delta variant.”
Martinson said the number of people travelling with Aeromexico has “substantially grown in the last months, despite the pandemic and the different variants. We expect to continue this growth as many regions start to open their borders and welcome more tourists as the numbers of fully vaccinated passengers increase. We expect to continue this growth and maintain a stable load factor, as we continue operating with our safety and security standards, and taking into consideration the presence of all new variants.”
Meanwhile, Pat Probert with TravelOnly says concerns about the Delta variant have surfaced among conversations with colleagues and industry peers.
“How will it affect the current rebound in bookings for 2021 and 2022?” he asked. “I would say that the consensus was that in Canada, we may not be as affected as elsewhere. Level of vaccination and overall health policies and measures in Canada are at one of the highest levels in the world, including the measures regarding air travel. However, the question remains when it comes to the many destinations we are accustomed to visiting. Inevitably, global coordination between relevant government agencies, resulting in clear health regulations and correctly applied travel restrictions or allowances is the answer. On the industry side, the ability to pivot, adjust on the go, while providing top level customer care and expertise is, and will always be expected.”
Probert’s Bob Family Travel agency is seeing business surpass 2019 levels for 2022 and Probert said now “more than ever we need to pick the right destinations for our clients and be aware of not only the Delta variant but any new variant that might come down the road. Being vaccinated is one of the ways to protect us all. With almost 5 billion doses of the vaccine in arms around the world and almost 2 billion fully vaccinated that accounts for 25% of the world population so it is getting safer to travel. Also with the third doses starting to be administered in different countries we fully expect to have a third shot in our arm before our trips next year. With so many sold-out groups in 2022 The Bob Family Travel Team will be travelling to many parts of the world, including the Caribbean on a Regent 10-day cruise from Barbados in February with pre and post stays to account for any testing that needs to be done,” he added.
As well, in May they will be travelling with over 100 clients and friends on the hosted Uniworld SS Beatrice sailing from Bucharest to Budapest before travelling on to Vienna and Prague and coming home after 20 days. Probert will hire exclusive buses for land tours for his clients to further protect vaccinated clients on all tours and transfers.
Probert, second from right, said talk of the Delta variant surfaced at a recent Toronto gathering.
“It seems people are willing to travel, especially if they feel comfortable,” Probert continued. “We have only seen the very odd cancellation and bookings are through the roof.”
Probert is buying out more ships exclusive to his groups where he is requiring all guests to be fully vaccinated and to have Manulife Insurance to travel including their full ship charter in Vietnam and Cambodia on the new all-suite Uniworld Mekong Jewel, which will be sailing in 2022.
Finally, Wolf Paunic of Trafalgar identified a recent outdoor Toronto travel industry gathering as a positive sign for an industry that has had to struggle for over a year.
“Clearly, we talked business, and about all the impediments we are still facing while working tirelessly to re-start our businesses, and put our eager guests on planes, coaches, cruise ships, bicycles, hiking trails etc. I haven’t talked to a single retail partner whose clients aren’t willing to travel – yet they are cautious and are looking at the travel agents and tour operators and authorities to provide clarity and guidance in navigating tricky travel and health regulations which vary from province to province, let alone internationally. Travel agents and reservation staff of travel suppliers are the unsung heroes of the past 16 months. And never has the value of travel agents’ expertise and advice been clearer than now. So we all have a good platform to build on; the world is never going to be the same, and travel will be modified to accommodate for many variables. Yet travellers, travel agents and travel suppliers will be working towards the same goal – to satisfy the need to travel, experience new places and cultures, get involved and support host communities dependent on tourism revenue, and share the good Canadian values.
“So, we all know we are ready and prepared to face the future. In talking to colleagues on the supplier side, I know that health and well-being measures are front and center of all our activities. At Trafalgar, we have introduced a unique and innovative Wellbeing Director, fully in charge of maximum application of Safe Travels — WTTC-approved health and well-being protocols, while our guests are enjoying the experiences interpreted and delivered by our Travel Directors. We have coach tours currently on the road in Europe, the USA and Africa, and seeing the excitement and satisfaction on the faces of our guests in the social media posts, is absolutely priceless!”
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