TORONTO — As Europe signals its intentions to reopen to tourism this summer, even if it’s just within the EU’s 27-country bloc, the Canadian travel industry is looking on with optimism and not a little wistfulness.
With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assurances earlier this week that a ‘one-dose summer’ could at least allow for some easing of restrictions here at home, and that if all goes well, a ‘two-dose fall’ could bring Canada even closer to normal life, there’s a chance vaccinated Canadian travellers could be heading for Europe later in 2021.
In the meantime however, the travel industry here can do little else but wait for Canada’s travel restrictions to lift.
With so much still up in the air in terms of Canada’s timeline for outbound travel, we checked in with several European tourism boards, to see what approach they’re taking when it comes to promotional campaigns for the Canadian market.
We also wanted to get their thoughts on vaccination passports, more commonly referred to these days as vaccination certificates, for international travel. The Digital Green Pass, the EU’s digital passport in this era of COVID-19, is making good progress through official channels. Meanwhile Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra have signalled Canada’s intention to collaborate with other G7 countries on a system of vaccination certification to help reopen international travel.
The accelerating vaccination rollouts in Europe, the U.S. and Canada means tourism will start to pick up in Europe this summer, and “we’re optimistic for an exceptionally strong fall season,” says Pascal Prinz, Chair, European Travel Commission (ETC), Canada Chapter and Director, Canada for Switzerland Tourism.
“Canada seems to be around 2 months behind the U.S. in terms of relaunching travelling internationally. The reopening of the Canada-US border will be a key milestone,” says Prinz.
Prinz shared feedback he’s hearing from travel agents and suppliers. “Operators and agents are telling us that people are not just dreaming but also starting to look again for when the time is right and ask for more information. They might not book yet, but they’re eager to travel when the time is right.”
The flexibility from airlines, tour operators, travel advisors and destinations has been a big help, he adds. Group travel could be a tough sell, “but for FIT, such as travelling with friends, and family, we’re very optimistic.”
He points out that the EU’s Digital Green Pass isn’t exclusively for confirming COVID-19 vaccination. It also covers people who have recovered from COVID-19 or have a negative test result. “It is a tool that would serve all travellers,” he says, adding that vaccination would not be an obligatory or sole condition for travel.
Just as important for Canada’s international travel restart, the Digital Green Pass proposal foresees the possibility to extend the system beyond the EU, to compatible certificates issued in other countries. “If Canada has a similar system in place, this will greatly facilitate travel of Canadian citizens to their favourite European destinations,” says Prinz.
Meanwhile, in England, the UK government’s ‘traffic list’ system comes into effect May 17. Canada, the U.S., and most of the world’s countries are on the ‘amber’ list. There are currently 12 countries on the ‘green’ list. Pre-arrival, amber list travellers including Canadians must complete a passenger locator form, take a COVID test and book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID tests. Upon arrival in England, there’s a quarantine requirement for 10 days, and the day 2 and day 8 COVID tests.
“With the most recent announcement, the UK government is taking the first steps towards reopening tourism. It is a consistent approach that prioritizes the health and safety of UK citizens and international travellers,’ said Paul Gauger, Senior Vice President Americas VisitBritain.
Tourism Ireland’s Sandra Moffat, Market Manager, Tourism Ireland (Canada). remains optimistic that it might still be possible to welcome Canadian visitors in the second half of 2021, when the time to travel is right and as travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime the team is inspiring visitors through social media and publicity activity to keep Ireland top of mind.
And France plans to welcome back European and international travellers starting June 9. It will be up to Canadians to decide when the time is right, says Melanie Paul-Hus, Director, Canada for Atout France. “We hope that lifting the essential travel only restriction would be a great first step and that by the end of 2021, immunized Canadians will start planning trips to France or its overseas regions,” she says.
To read the full article check out the May 13 issue of Travelweek here.
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