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Industry welcomes Canada's lifting of global advisory against non-essential travel

The travel industry is welcoming what it calls the federal government's "long overdue" move to lift a global advisory asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country.
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Travellers arrive at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, February 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

CALGARY – The travel industry is welcoming what it calls the federal government's "long overdue" move to lift a global advisory asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country.

“You cannot believe how welcome this move is for us," said Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Canadian-based international tour operator G Adventures. "It's very late, as far as I’m concerned, given what’s going in the rest of the world. But very welcome, that's for sure.”

The global travel advisory was put in place in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world.

The government of Canada's website now shows that advisory is no longer in place, though it continues to list individual advisories for destination countries, as it did prior to the pandemic.

It also urges Canadians to ensure they are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus before travelling abroad, and to stay informed of the COVID-19 situation at their destination.

Canada has been slower than many other countries to remove its blanket advisory against international travel, and that's been frustrating for the Canadian travel industry, Poon Tip said. He said his own company has been forced to lay off 1,000 people — more than half of its workforce worldwide — due to the collapse in travel demand.

“It’s been a tough time, making those kinds of decisions. The toughest decisions I’ve had to make in 30 years," he said.

However, Poon Tip said he's noticed a significant uptick in travel demand from Canadians in the last couple of months, something he attributes to the growing confidence in the wake of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.

"We’ve hired 30 people in the last couple of months just to answer inquiries, and we’re continually hiring again, which is a great feeling," he said.

At The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, founder and chief executive Lesley Keyter said she's also noticed a dramatic increase in inquiries and bookings in the last two months. But she said the removal of the federal government's blanket travel advisory will add an extra layer of comfort for some people.

"I’m sure this will persuade people who were on the fence. They’ll feel a bit safer about doing that," Keyter said.

The removal of the global travel advisory should also make it easier for Canadians to purchase travel insurance, depending on their destination and its COVID-19 risk profile, Keyter added.

However, the federal government continues to advise against travel on cruise ships, something Keyter said will continue to negatively affect Canada's travel agency industry.

"I'm desperately disappointed that they’re taking away the blanket ban, but they’re still keeping this Level 4 advisory for the cruises," Keyter said. 

"Honestly, having been on two cruises in the last couple of months, I felt safer on the cruise than I did on my overnight hotel in Toronto.”

Canada opened its borders last month to non-essential international travellers who have received both doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and to fully vaccinated travellers from the United States in August.

The U.S. government recently announced that its land borders will reopen to non-essential Canadian travellers on Nov. 8.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 22, 2021.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press