If you’re in the market to make up for lost time on the travel front, you’re not alone. While the relentless COVID-19 pandemic hit the global travel industry with a vengeance, it looks like it is coming back to life in all of its unforgettable glory – and soon (fingers crossed). We’ve already seen the collective need and craving for a change of scenery play out within Canada in the past year. Last summer, camp sites and cottage rentals were virtually booked solid across Ontario, as restless city residents all had the same idea to escape the concrete for a fresh air fix.
A Glimpse of Hope
Now, after 15 months of accumulating hopes and dreams of travel destinations, the sweet day of adding another stamp to the passport will (hopefully) soon be here soon, as vaccines continue to roll out. The beloved travel industry is slowly but surely coming back to life.
The signs are everywhere. Air Canada just announced it would recall 2,600 employees to meet a rising increase in travel. South of the border, a study by Tripadvisor found that 51 per cent of U.S. respondents plan on taking a domestic summer vacation and 22 per cent plan to take a trip abroad. Vaccinated travellers were a key driver of this demand.
“In the States they’ve already gone through the ‘cheap deals’ phase and now things are booking up as they start to get back to more ‘normal” travel,’” says Jenn Weatherhead, a well-known Canadian travel expert and travel journalist.
Will The Canadian Industry Bounce Back?
Weatherhead points signs that Canada will follow a similar path. “We’re already seeing some of a bounce back in terms of sales for flights, hotels and more—and even a surge in prices as the demand picks back up,” she says.
Now that Canada is catching up on the vaccine front, talk of travel among Canadians has indeed become more hopeful. With the recent announcement of the loosening of quarantine rules for fully vaccinated international travellers come July, the banter in group chats and in social media would definitely suggest that a decent number Canadians will be using their well-earned vacation days in the not-too-distant future.
While many may not be crossing international borders quite yet (i.e., they’re waiting to see how the pandemic plays out), many Canadians are planning a local escape this summer – if even for a much-needed day trip. According to a survey of 2000 Canadian drivers from Leger on behalf of Toyota Canada, 49 per cent were planning a road trip this summer – a 10 per cent increase from last year. More than three-quarters of respondents reported having a new-found appreciation for the outdoors as a result of the pandemic and its control measures.
A New Appreciation For Domestic Travel
Furthermore, about 65 per cent of those surveyed reported a greater appreciation for travel within Canada since the start of the pandemic. “Initially travel will be close to home, which is why we are seeing the surge in bookings domestically,” says Ann Layton, owner of Siren, a leading travel-based public relations company. “I applaud the efforts by Destination Canada to encourage people to see our great country in an effort to kick start our own tourism industry.”
While international was off the table (at least, at the time they were surveyed) for the majority of respondents in the Leger/Toyota survey), that doesn’t mean that the wanderlust isn’t real.
“The consensus in the tourism industry right now is that when people can travel again, they will. There is nothing like being in lockdown for over a year to encourage folks to seize the day – and we expect a big ‘carpe diem’ wave of bookings on the other side of this devastating pandemic,” says Layton.
How Will Tourists Invest Their Dollars?
The big question, says Layton, is where and how they will invest their travel dollars. “I doubt we will see at a simple return to the status quo,” she says. “I believe people that have had many months to think about what they want from life will be seeking more meaningful, bucket list experiences.”
Weatherhead agrees that travel has taken on a different meaning for many people.
“The term ‘revenge travel’ has been floating around, with the idea that we want to make the most out of life and not miss out on these travel opportunities again,” says Weatherhead. “So, future travel is already looking up—cruises, safaris and long bucket list trips are being booked for 2022 and beyond… people are really hankering to get back out there!”
Naturally, Canadians will ease back into travel at their own pace. ‘There will be those who cannot wait and will get on a plane as soon as possible—the rest I think will slowly ease back into it with shorter trips at first before booking long-haul trips,” says Weatherhead.
“But there is this sense that we only live once, we don’t want to take travel for granted again, and we want to see more of the world while we can (when it’s safe). And that’s why you’ll see those bigger vacations being booked for the future (in the next year or so).”
For those in the market to book a future trip to look forward to, the key is to take advantage of deals while you can. “Prices are expected to go up, and things are booking quickly, and you won’t want to miss out (double check cancellation policies in case you need to change at a later date),” says Weatherhead.
As travellers start booking airplane tickets, the hard-hit tourist destinations will be ready for them.
“We represent many clients in the Caribbean, and I can tell you they are doing everything possible to prepare for this next wave of tourism,” says Layton. “As just one example, the Canadian-owned Crane Resort in Barbados just opened the first on-site Covid-19 on site testing facility in the entire Caribbean so that visitors can not only get tested, but get their results right from the lab on property, in a matter of just hours. It was a significant financial investment, but they strongly believe the travel industry market will be back – and soon.”