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Those in the travel industry are keeping their fingers crossed that Ottawa’s decision to stop advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country will give the industry a welcome boost after the often punishing times the industry has seen since the onset of the pandemic.
The federal government announced last week that it was no longer telling fully vaccinated people not to vacation outside this country’s borders. It does advise those bound for foreign countries to take personal protective measures, such as wearing masks and frequently washing their hands.
The government is still recommending that unvaccinated Canadians not go on foreign holidays and says all Canadians should avoid cruises sailing outside Canadian waters.
The news was quickly welcomed by most contacted by Travel Courier for their reaction.
“The Government of Canada’s decision to lift the advisory against all non-essential travel outside of the country is an important step for the travel industry. We believe this will have a positive impact on winter bookings for Sunwing vacation packages, and are optimistic that this is a sign that more government-imposed restrictions may be loosened in the near future,” said Andrew Dawson, president of tour operations at Sunwing.
“With soaring vaccination rates across the country, more Canadians are keen for a return to normalcy and the frictionless experience that an all inclusive vacation provides. We look forward to welcoming more Canadians back to sun destinations under our wing, and showing customers how they can travel with ease.”
Dawson said Sunwing wants the vacation planning process to be “as stress-free as possible” and so is offering customers the ability to change their plans anytime with no fees and provides free COVID-19 emergency medical coverage on most all-inclusive vacation packages. It is also ensuring customers have the latest information at their fingertips on Sunwing.ca, including details on destination entry requirements and resorts that offer convenient on-site pre-departure PCR testing.
Among Sunwing destinations is Cuba, with Lessner Gomez, director of the Cuba Tourism Board’s Toronto office, telling Travel Courier last week’s decision will lead to consumers having “more confidence in making travel decisions,” and increased air service to his country.
All 10 of Cuba’s international airports will be open by Nov. 7, a date 90% of Cubans are expected to be vaccinated.
All Cubans working in hotels and at tourism establishments are now vaccinated.
Gomez noted Canadians alone don’t need a PCR test 72 hours before entering Cuba.
The Los Cabos Tourism Board said in a statement that it’s “ecstatic” over Ottawa-s decision and “it cannot wait to host Canadian travellers again.”
The board promised in the same statement that “it takes the safety and wellness of its community and visitors as its top priority.”
Kayla Shubert of the Tourism Authority of Thailand noted Ottawa’s announcement coincided with the decision by Thai authorities to reopen all Thailand on Nov. 1 to fully vaccinated from countries on an approved list that includes Canada.
The move eliminates the quarantine requirement for vaccinated people on the list.
“The recent news is very positive and exciting and most definitely offers us great optimism,” Shubert said.”Thailand has been slowly and cautiously repenting over the last several months and these recent announcements will now enable fully vaccinated Canadians to visit the entire country, rather than just specific areas.
“We know Canadians can’t wait to resume travel and hope Thailand will be their destination of choice for a winter escape.”
Bruce Hodge, founder of Goway, which includes Thailand among its destinations, said things are looking up for those in travel.
“Thank goodness enough people have gotten vaccinated that we can get our freedoms back, particularly (freedom) to travell,” Hodge said. “We have to keep pushing for all the world to be vaccinated so travel will be like we knew it and in essence we can travel anywhere.Fortunately, the recovery for travel is getting so strong it can’t be stopped.”
Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise in Toronto was quick to label the federal government’s move “a good thing for sure” for travel. “Personally, having travelled outside the country during the pandemic, I’m confident the protocols are as good as they can possibly be. Having said that, I would urge all those wanting to travel to use common sense and to check regularly on the government website of the country they wish to visit to keep up to date on travel restrictions and protocols there as well as the requirements to come back to Canada.”
However, Paul Nielsen of Paragon Travel — also in Toronto — was more cautious about possible benefits for his industry resulting from Ottawa’s latest move.
“I believe at this point in time Canadians are suffering from warning fatigue,” he said. “Peoples eyes just glossed over at that warning so the removal is a bit of a non-issue, other than to those who read the fine print on insurance policies “
More damaging to travel outside the country is the cost of required PCR tests, said Nielsen, who cites clients being “shocked” when told they should budget at least US$150 per person for a test, which translates into US$600 for a family of four. “Plus it’s PITA to find a clinic and schedule in the precise time frame necessary.”
On top of that clients may be concerned that possible return flight delays may invalidate the test results, he added.
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