Vaccine Arrival Sparks Traveller Hopes, But Canadians Remain Cautious

Though arrivals of COVID-19 vaccines may give us hope that travel restrictions might soon be relaxed, Canadians remain cautious about planning international—or even, to some extent, domestic—trips any time soon.

According to a new survey by the Conference Board of Canada, while 87 per cent of Canadians say they miss travelling, three quarters insist they won’t travel out of the country until a vaccine is available, and 53 per cent say the same about domestic travel. Meanwhile, one quarter of respondents to the survey do not plan to get vaccinated.

Furthermore, if and when airline travellers decide to pack up and go, 66 per cent want mandatory face masks used by all ground and in-air staff and 57 per cent want distancing space retained—to some degree. Survey respondents also revealed that their fears about exposure to COVID were most pronounced about the modes of transportation—more than half were “extremely or very concerned” about exposure to COVID while on the aircraft, in taxis, or in car shares; 47 per cent “extremely or very concerned” about potential exposure at a theme park; 29 per cent at their accommodation property; but only 19 per cent were very worried about exposure while on the beach or outdoors.

Resistance to US travel still high, but lessening

CBoC reports that a few months ago, 83 per cent of Canadians responding to an earlier survey said they were “extremely or very concerned” about being exposed to COVID while travelling in the US. In the current survey, this share had dropped to 69 per cent, even though 80 per cent still felt the border with the US should remain closed. 

As for making their travel plans, 91 per cent of respondents to the CBoC survey insisted they would check infection rates at their destination of choice before firming up their reservations.

Though vaccine distribution has already begun, it appears that widespread vaccination of the general population is still a relatively distant prospect. Thus, making travel plans remains a hit-and-miss affair, for the time being.

Canadians encouraged by COVID insurance coverage

Generally, potential travellers have been encouraged by the development of access to COVID vaccinations and the availability of COVID-specific travel insurance coverage. More than half of travellers (52 per cent) reported that the inclusion of COVID coverage in travel insurance plans increases their willingness to travel as soon as possible and they also feel that if rapid testing could replace quarantine protocols, their willingness to travel would be strengthened.

Despite guarded optimism about the arrival of a vaccine against COVID, CBoC still anticipates little trans-border traffic until vaccinations are widely available. And it emphasizes that travel to the US (Canada’s most favoured travel destination) is projected to fall by 91 per cent this winter season (that’s a reduction of 6.5 million trips). In addition, travel to other destinations is expected to fall by 88 per cent (5.1 million trips).

The CBoC report also revealed that 47 per cent of Canadians who prepaid (in whole or part) for their travel services (such as cruises or tours) outside of Canada before the onset of the pandemic settled for “credits” for future travel (e.g., cruise or airline ticket vouchers); 12 per cent settled for rebooking at later dates; and only 35 per cent for cash refunds. How all of these accounts will be resolved when the dust settles remains to be seen, as regulators and governments continue to press for cash refunds being mandatory.

Overall, CBoC forecasts that with just 36 per cent of Canadians intending to take an overnight leisure trip this winter, and with only one in 10 planning to leave the country overall, outbound leisure travel will fall to just 1.2 million trips between November and April—less than 10 per cent of the activity recorded last winter.

That’s perhaps a dreary forecast for travellers accustomed to basking under sunny skies during Canada’s coldest months, but with a New Year about to dawn, let’s hope the worst is past and 2021 brings relief and a return to normalcy.

© Copyright 2020, 2021 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved.

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