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Travel still stalled even though Canada's borders reopening, say local agents

Many countries remain closed to tourists and many travellers don’t want to risk losing money on a trip that may never take flight or risk getting stranded.
1407 borders jn
Canadians looking for flights out of the country might be disappointed by their options. Many countries have yet to open their borders to tourists and airlines have not yet reinstated flights. SCREENSHOT/Photo

ST. ALBERT - It has been 18 months since Tina Shank of Memorable Vacations sold a trip, but travel inquires have been up in the air for the St. Albert-based travel agent since the federal government eased up on border restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians to come back into the country.

“People are definitely going cautiously. I do have quite a few quotes that I've put out in the last – just in the past week ­– and people are like, ‘Oh, do I put down a deposit or don’t I?’” said Shank.

On July 5, Canadian border requirements eased for fully vaccinated travellers, which means eligible travellers no longer have to quarantine when they come home. But just because the Canadian borders are open to returning travellers, doesn’t mean the doors are open to anywhere else.

Many countries remain closed to tourists and many travellers don’t want to risk losing money on a trip that may never take flight or risk getting stranded.

Shank said the 14-day quarantine was a huge hassle for people, but it wasn’t the only hassle.

“The advisories not to travel and then all the cancellations, then the whole fiasco of trying to get a refund – it's just been, it's been a nightmare, so I'd actually just advise my clients it's just not worth it.

“So now I'm advising, let's start looking at later fall into 2022. And then hopefully, fingers crossed, we'll be back to something of a normal life as normal travel style,” she said.

St. Albert resident Marisa Cupelli of Epic World Travel Co. has been in the travel industry for 40 years. She said she has also had some nightmares through the pandemic, from dealing with insurance companies to becoming the only agent left in her office.

Cupelli said most of the bookings she has right now are rebookings from the last year.

“Everything we had booked in 2020, we have to move to 2021. Now we're moving things to 2022 and into 2023, because (20)22 has already been cancelled. So, I've changed things four times already,” she said.

One of the bigger issues for travel right now is that countries aren’t open to tourists.

“Australia, New Zealand have extended their border closure until June of 2022. That's almost a year from now. Europe is still not open. They're still in negotiations with the federal government … So, where are we selling? We can't and, as an agent, I'm very hesitant,” said Cupelli.

Shank said she has received notifications from different countries, but she hasn’t been following up.

“Just because it changes daily, whether they're going to let people in or not,” she explained.

As of right now, Shank said countries like Mexico are open to travellers.

Shank said most of Southeast Asia won’t allow people to come in on a tourist visa; however, some of them have business visas but they have strict requirements, Shank said.

“Indonesia has one visa ­– it's a type of a business visa, but their number one thing is tourism, where they've got a five-day quarantine process.

“There’s Cambodia. You can get in, but you have to have a work permit already lined up. So, stuff like that is starting to open up, but they definitely have some pretty strict quarantining,” she said.

Thailand opened the Phuket Sandbox on July 1. The Sandbox allows eligible travels to skip quarantine – with a catch. A person must stay in Phuket for 14 days and they must stay in accredited hotels only. After the 14 days are up the person can travel to other destinations in Thailand.

Cupelli wondered how people are supposed to get to Phuket.

“I hope you’ve got one hell of a canoe because that's the only way you're going to get there,” she said.

First, airlines have to reinstate flights, because right now they don’t exist, Cupelli explained.

Travel, if it ever gets going again, is going to look different for people when they do decide to start booking trips.

Cupelli said consumers need to be aware that her industry has been hit the hardest. Business still hasn’t resumed for them.

Right now, Cupelli said, people are reaching out to her to ask about deals.

“They'll say, ‘Well, what kind of deal can you get me?’ Or ‘There must be a lot of deals out there right now,’" she said.

“The day of the deal is done in the travel industry. By next year, we'll have no revenue for almost two years. How does a consumer think it's fair that they deserve the deal when we've had no revenue for two years?”

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