TORONTO — Emotions are running high as the travel industry deals with the fallout from the federal government’s reinstated travel advisory against all non-essential travel outside Canada.
The advisory was announced Dec. 15, just days away from holiday break travel and only weeks after the industry was starting to get back some momentum after the first 20-month long travel warning.
For an industry that thought it had seen it all during this pandemic, the Level 3 advisory, handed down less than two months into the recovery, is a new low.
Travel industry veterans from both sides of the supply chain – suppliers, and retailers – are speaking out.
“POLITICIANS MORE INTERESTED IN POSTURING”
“It appears that our federal politicians are more interested in posturing – closing borders sounds tough – than in looking at the data and taking effective action,” Laurielle Penny, Managing Director, Worldwide Quest tells Travelweek.
“All of us who work in travel and tourism, all travellers, and all Canadians should contact our provincial and federal representatives to insist on real action to address the pandemic not a knee-jerk scapegoating of entire area of activity that already has effective safeguards in place,” says Penny.
She notes that border testing results for fully vaccinated travellers (international land and air arrivals) from Sept. 10 – November 27, 2021, the most current data published by the Government of Canada, shows a 0.14% overall positivity rate. That compares with a 3.2% daily positivity rate as of Nov. 27, 2021 for lab tests for COVID-19 in Ontario. As Penny points out, based on those numbers, the rate of positivity in the general population is 23 times higher than the rate in arriving travellers.
“Travel is not the key vector for transmission of COVID-19 at this stage. The best allocation of government resources should be to provide those resources to areas where transmission is significant. That is not the fully vaccinated traveller who tests negative for COVID-19 test before boarding an aircraft to Canada,” she says.
“Let’s continue to allow only fully vaccinated people to travel, let’s continue to require pre-flight testing for all arrivals, and while we’re at it, let’s close the wide-open back door of exempting Canadians from testing if they depart and re-enter within 72 hours (allowing exemptions only for selected border communities).”
Penny adds that “the vague threats of ‘hassles’ at the border and ‘people who travel abroad risk being stranded’ are unhelpful and do nothing to improve the situation on the ground.”
“PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TRAVEL REGARDLESS”
Pat Probert, who heads up the Bob Family Travel Team, affiliated with Travel Only, says the newly reinstated Level 3 travel advisory won’t stop everyone from travelling.
“People are going to travel regardless of what the government imposes,” Probert tells Travelweek.
“We did everything we were told to do and all of our clients are double vaccinated and many are reporting getting their third shot and they want to travel.”
Omicron seems to be less dangerous from reports coming out, albeit it is much more transmissible, notes Probert.
Probert himself has travelled on four different cruises, with several flights. “To and from Canada and from international destinations I was tested about 13 times,” he says. “Protocols on cruise ships are the best I have ever seen. Airlines and cruise lines have some of the safest protocols in place.”
He applauded Canada’s common sense mandate that travellers boarding a plane, train or cruise ship must be fully vaccinated.
The Bob Family Travel Team, which specializes in group travel, has sold over $900,000 in cruises for the first quarter of 2024, on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, says Probert. Group sales for Uniworld are also extremely strong. “In less than 60 days we will be on Regent Navigator out of Barbados with a large group and we fully expect this to go on. Vaccines and testing is the key to keeping people safe not keeping vaccinated people locked up.”
Probert is a big proponent of travel insurance, especially the Manulife Premium Protection Plan.
“SHAME ON YOU ALL”
Jamie Milton, co-owner of Uniglobe Carefree Travel in Saskatoon, SK, also reached out to Travelweek to share a letter she sent to her MP, Kevin Waugh, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and others.
“I implore you and the government of Canada to look at the details below and explain to my how you can possibly shut down an industry that was already on the brink with ZERO science to back up the incredibly detrimental impact to an entire industry,” said Milton in her letter.
“I promise you this action WILL cause untold bankruptcies in our industry.
“If you think there were customer service issues with the rebuilding of travel through the fall, it is NOTHING compared to what will happen when there is another exodus of experienced people from our industry – people who are DONE and TIRED and DEPLETED. They will not return. Some of the very BEST people I know in this industry have said this is it – you have crippled them beyond repair.
“I hope you can find some way to rectify this quickly, before it is too late – I FEAR it already is. Shame on you. Honestly, shame. I am a 43-year old business owner, mother of 3, stand-up, tax -paying citizen who has done my part for the past two years. I have DONE my part. Now it is time for you to do yours.
“Please look at the test positivity rates for fully vaccinated travellers July – November. It is SHAMEFUL that with all travellers now being required to be vaccinated and test positivity ranging from ZERO to less than ½ a percent that you choose TRAVEL to shut down??? What about sporting events, large gatherings? That is where your transmission is occurring – NOT travel. Shameful!
“Also – look at this ‘How people were exposed’ info on this website. 1.7% from TRAVEL! How can travel be the one area you target as a FALL GUY when less than 2% of all cases since the beginning of COVID were related to travel. Honestly, explain to me ONE reason why we were chosen??!?
“This is your OWN data. If this is the information you are using to make your decisions, we need new people making decisions. It is UNCONSCIONABLE that with no concrete reason you have devastated and bankrupted the people in your care.
“If this can be escalated to the highest degree that they are causing irreparable damage to an entire industry with no just cause, I would really appreciate it. I honestly cannot even fathom how we are back in this position again, when we were just starting to see the light of day. This will have an economic impact of untold amounts for years to come. Shame on you all.”