TORONTO — There is shock, frustration, grief and disbelief in the travel industry this morning as rumours swirl that the federal government is considering reinstating the travel advisory against all non-essential travel.
The advisory lifted less than eight weeks ago, as case counts declined and as Canadians far surpassed the 80% mark for full vaccinations. Measures have also been put in place to ensure that all travellers are fully vaccinated.
However uncertainty around the omicron variant has triggered a rapid escalation of new travel restrictions. Reports in multiple consumer media outlets including the Globe and Mail and the CBC indicate that the federal government is considering reinstating the non-essential travel advisory.
On Nov. 30 the federal government announced that all air arrivals into Canada must be tested upon arrival and self-isolate pending the results.
At that time the government also added three more countries to its omicron watch list, for a total of 10.
And now there’s a chance the devastating travel advisory against all non-essential travel may come back. When it lifted on Oct. 20, 2021, it had been in place for more than 20 months.
Whether or not the advisory comes back, the travelling public’s confidence in their vacation plans for the coming weeks and months is quickly eroding.
After just a few short weeks of seeing bookings ramp up, agents are back to hand-holding and, worse, dealing with cancellations as clients’ fears escalate.
“We are not out of the woods yet, in fact I think we are in for a terrible winter again,” says Niche Travel Group owner Faith Sproule. “I expect lots of issues and cancellations coming in the next few weeks.”
Robert Townshend, President, Total Advantage Travel & Tours, says, “When will it end? All I’ve done all day is hand-holding and reassuring people that things will be okay. People do not want to hear that they will lose their money if they cancel. I don’t know how many times today I said that there isn’t any cancellation insurance you can purchase that will allow you cancel due to COVID and get your money back in actual cash.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a telephone conference with the premiers last night. A statement from the PMO says the Prime Minister “consulted premiers on additional border and travel measures that could help slow community spreading, and First Ministers discussed other potential measures to keep Canadians safe.”
Just two days ago Trudeau was asked if Canada needed to formally advise against non-essential travel. “We have added different rules to protect people. Canadians have been living for months and months with variants and difficult situations,” said Trudeau on Monday. “And what I encourage everyone to do is to watch out for what the public health rules are, and make their decisions as a result of that.”
Reports indicate that an announcement about more travel restrictions could come today or this week.