TORONTO — Travel is back – in a big way – with Canadians venturing across borders in record-breaking numbers.
For the week of July 18-24, Transport Canada recorded close to 1,144,000 air passenger departures across Canada, with a daily average of more than 163,000 passengers. This is close to 4,300 more passengers than the previous week, and represents nearly 83% of the level for the same week in 2019. That same week, Service Canada issued 51,418 passports, for a total of 665,532 passports since April 1, 2022.
But where are all these Canadians travelling to? With borders reopening around the world after nearly two years of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the possibilities are endless for those ready and able to venture abroad.
In light of new data from market research firm IPSOS, which found that 60% of Canadians are thinking about, planning to or have already booked travel this year, Google Canada has released new search trends based on top-searched destinations in Google Flights over the past year.
The top-searched international destination among Canadians is Paris, followed by London, New York, Lisbon and Rome. Rounding out the top 10 are Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Delhi and Athens.
As for sun destinations, Canadians are mostly searching for Orlando, Cancun, Honolulu, Fort Lauderdale and Miami on Google Flights. These top-five sunny locales are followed by Kahului, Punta Cana, Montego Bay, Aruba and Nassau.
“Canadians are particularly interested in getting back to exploring some of the world’s most metropolitan cities for the first time in over two years,” says Marshall Self, Director of Finance & Travel, Google Canada, who adds that international travel searches in Canada have actually exceeded pre-pandemic levels. “And while sun destinations and holiday packages are typically planned to escape colder temperatures, Canadians are now looking for fast, affordable and convenient travel options, and many aren’t waiting for the cold. In fact, searches for ‘beach resorts’ and ‘all-inclusive resorts’ almost doubled in interest.”
Of course, Google searches don’t mean much to the travel industry’s recovery if they’re not followed by actual bookings. But according to Saj Hossain, Retail Operations Leader at Flight Centre Canada, Google’s top search results actually line up with recent booking trends.
Paris, London, New York, Lisbon and Rome – Google’s top five searched international destinations – are the same destinations that make up the majority of Flight Centre’s international summer bookings, says Hossain. Flights to New York City, for travel in late August to September, for example, range from $450-$600 from Toronto, while flights to London from Toronto for the same date range are going for anywhere from $1,000-$1,300.
Flight Centre’s top booked sun destinations are Cancun, Punta Cana and Puerto Vallarta, the first two also on Google’s list. Flight prices to Cancun from Toronto in November, says Hossain, range from $600-$800, while flights to Punta Cana from Toronto range from $600-$900.
ARE HIGH PRICES OF CONCERN?
When asked whether flight prices are higher now than prior to the pandemic, Hossain says the answer isn’t so clear cut, with several factors that need be taken into consideration.
“Flight pricing overall has increased since 2019 but, of course, this depends on multiple variables such as destination, seasonality and how early (or late) you are booking. Availability, increase in fuel surcharges and taxes also factor into price, which are anywhere from 10%-20% more,” he says.
“Airlines are operating fewer flights than they were in 2019 , so while there may have been daily flights on a route pre-pandemic, currently we might be only seeing twice-weekly flights, which results in lower booking classes filling up quickly,” adds Hossain.
So how can travellers help minimize the impact of higher travel prices? Book early.
“Customers booking earlier are able to secure a better rate for their flight, which was true prior to the pandemic and is still the case today,” says Hossain. “The travel restrictions over the past two years have resulted in very big pent-up demand. Higher rates and challenges at the airports, while not ideal, ultimately will not stop our customers from getting out in the world. Our customers and our travel advisors are solution-driven and continue to find ways to overcome the evolving hurdles facing the industry.”
At Google Canada, Self also says pent-up demand is driving growth for travel within the country, despite inflation and higher prices.
“We have yet to see economic pressures slow demand. After more than two years of being stuck at home, it’s clear that people are excited about travel, whether that’s planning for trips abroad or at home in Canada,” says Self. “Right now, we’re definitely in a period where travel demand is back to pre-pandemic levels, but with uncertainty ahead we’ll have to see how the next few months pan out.”
To read the full article, including which Google tools can help travel advisors, check out the Aug. 4 edition of Travelweek here.