If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
TORONTO — Here’s the good news: 80% of Canadians plan to travel in 2021, according to a new survey conducted by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA).
Here’s the bad news, at least for anyone whose livelihood typically depends on selling international travel: most respondents in the survey said they don’t plan to cross borders for their trips anytime soon.
The THIA’s 2020 Smart Traveller Survey, conducted in October 2020 with 1,000 responses from across Canada (from consumers ranging from ages 18 to 60+), suggests that 53% of Canadians will only begin making cross-border travel plans when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Barring a vaccine, 74% of respondents say they want carriers, from airlines to trains, to block off seating or operate below maximum capacity to allow for physical distancing before they feel comfortable booking any travel.
And 62% of Canadians also want assurances from their travel health insurance providers that they have appropriate coverage should they or their travel companions’ contract COVID-19 while on vacation.
“The travel health insurance industry evolved dramatically at the pandemic’s outset when March Break travel was interrupted. Support centres became the only resource for travellers scrambling to return,” says Will McAleer, THIA’s Executive Director and spokesperson.
“The travel insurance industry is responding to consumers’ needs for assurances and a growing number of our members are offering specialized COVID-19 coverage, either within or as a rider to their policies. Many companies are waiting for the Canadian government to reduce the level three travel advisory before offering new insurance products,” says McAleer.
He notes that 29% of survey respondents are willing to travel outside of Canada. Their biggest concern with travelling outside of Canada includes questions around returning safely.
And here’s the problem with the honour system for health questionnaires and screenings: of those who said they plan to travel in 2021, 25% said that they would answer untruthfully to COVID-19 screening questions in order to board their flight home.
The federal government’s travel advisory remains in effect, warning Canadians against all non-essential travel amid the pandemic. However THIA notes that there are still options for Canadians who choose to travel, and says it’s more important now than ever to ensure that travellers understand their travel health insurance coverage and have the necessary coverage.
Here are the THIA’s golden rules of travel health insurance before clients leave for vacation: