TORONTO — You can’t blame clients – or their travel agents – for wondering if a vacation right now is worth it. There are the mandatory masks, and the forms to fill out, not to mention the quarantine for the return to Canada. And surely the experience at the resort is sombre and subdued, or tense, or downright awkward?
Surprisingly, no, says Sandra Weber, who recently vacationed in Jamaica. Weber is a travel agent and manager at Merit Travel in Toronto. “We had a fantastic experience and I would love for others to have the chance to be refreshed by travel the way we were!” she says.
Weber and her husband stayed at Bahia Principe Grand Jamaica with ACV in the last days of July and the first few days of August. “It’s not hard to relax when you’re outdoors and able to enjoy the beautiful nature surrounding you,” she says.
Weber lives in downtown Toronto, where social distancing can be a challenge. There was a lot more space at the resort. “It was a lot easier to socially distance there than it is for me living in the heart of Toronto so I felt a lot more laid-back than usual,” she says.
She adds: “Since they were operating at less than 20% capacity, it was overall pretty quiet but still enough people to add some energy and life to the vacation vibe. We often had the beach or pool to ourselves so it felt like a good time to be vacationing.”
TOURISM STEADILY INCREASING
Close to 4,000 Canadians have travelled to Jamaica since the country reopened its borders back in mid-June, says Angella Bennett, Regional Director Canada, Jamaica Tourist Board.
“Travel from Canada to Jamaica is increasing slowly and steadily. We are optimistic that as the weather begins to cool and Canadians start to feel more comfortable travelling again we’ll see an increase in consumer demand,” Bennett told Travelweek.
In terms of flights, Air Canada, West Jet and Caribbean Airlines are currently operating into Jamaica. Both Air Transat and Sunwing will be resuming service for the fall/winter season.
WHAT ARE THE PROTOCOLS?
Jamaica’s COVID protocols include a Travel Authorization document that must be completed pre-travel by everyone travelling to Jamaica. Currently pre-travel negative PCR tests are only required for residents of the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and the D.R. Anyone may still be required to be tested at the airport or designated facility, if, for example, they are exhibiting symptoms. This week the Jamaican government announced curfew measures and limits for gatherings after seeing a slight uptick in numbers. Complete details about entry protocols and more can be found here.
Weber says she filled out her Travel Authorization Form prior to travel. Upon arrival on the island she met with a health officer for a full health screening and risk assessment which included a temperature check.
“Each destination will have its own set of requirements, and as a travel consultant I knew the importance of extensively researching every single detail prior to deciding to travel,” she says.
Weber adds that her Air Canada flights “were a breeze,” with friendly and professional crew, and other passengers who were respectful of the new guidelines. “I’ve actually worn a mask on planes for years now so that wasn’t a huge adjustment, but I was certainly more mindful and aware of my surroundings. I really loved Air Canada’s CleanCare+ kits which included everything from bottled water to hand sanitizer and disposable gloves. It’s a great way to make sure travellers have what they need for added safety and peace of mind.”
At the Bahia Principe Grand Jamaica, there was a diligent and thorough adherence to the new health and safety measures, outlined here.
“We were blown away by how smooth, consistent, and well executed the new protocols were,” says Weber. “The resort staff didn’t miss a beat and it was clear that guest safety was a top priority for everyone there. Their systems were flawless and held to the highest standard. We were very grateful to see their commitment to the new practices and to making travel safe again.”
The JTB’s Bennett notes that to date, there have been zero known cases of COVID-19 among tourism sector employees from an incoming international visitor within Jamaica’s Resilient Corridor. “This is an incredibly positive sign and speaks to the vigilance of our workers and the strength and effectiveness of our protocols in our airports, hotels, transportation and at the attractions within the Resilient Corridor on the island,” says Bennett.
Bennett adds that Jamaica “has been incredibly focused and resilient when it comes to bringing tourism back to the island in a safe and responsible way. The country’s travel industry has worked tirelessly over the last few months to develop rigorous WTTC-approved health and safety guidelines to protect tourism workers and visitors to the destination. We also have strict screening protocols in place — especially for travellers from high-risk countries — to further protect those travelling to the destination.”
“ONE OF THE BEST ALL-INCLUSIVE EXPERIENCES I’VE EVER HAD”
Weber says she and her husband had travel insurance that covered their biggest concerns, “so we were able to travel with that added layer of security.”
She and her husband also quarantined for the required 14 days when they got back to Toronto. “Yes, we were in self-isolation for a two-week period upon our return and with a little bit of planning beforehand, we were able to make it work for us. Thankfully this is the era of online-everything so we had our groceries delivered and made sure our schedules would allow for us to be home during that time.”
Would she recommend the whole vacation experience to family and friends? Weber says yes. “The time at the resort was truly incredible and one of the best all-inclusive experiences I’ve ever had.”
Weber adds: “As travel consultants we are here to help design the best vacation possible for our clients, however we are aware that this is a unique period in time where everyone needs to assess their personal situation carefully before deciding to travel.
“It’s been so encouraging to see how quickly the travel industry has adapted and we are ready to help travellers plan their next journey whenever they are.”
Are you a travel agent who has travelled outside of Canada recently, or do you have clients who have returned from an out-of-country trip? Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, we’d like to hear from you!