Travel agencies 'hammered' by restrictions, fear effects of further measures
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Canada’s prime minister has a message for Canadians looking at booking sunny getaways: don’t go.
“When I say that everyone has to do their part, I’m also talking to travellers,” said Justin Trudeau when translated from French Tuesday. “It’s not the time to be travelling abroad. If you had planned to leave the country, please, on behalf of all Canadians, cancel your trip. It’s not worth catching COVID-19 and bringing it back to Canada.”
It’s a message being echoed by Quebec premier Francois Legault, who takes it one step further, urging Ottawa to do more to prevent new variants of COVID-19 from coming into Canada from overseas.
Legault is asking for a ban on all non-essential travel to places like all-inclusive resorts, as well as better enforcement of the post-travel 14-day quarantine.
“I’m very worried to see people coming back from a trip with the virus,” Legault said.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, nearly 200 recent international flights to Canada have had at least one COVID-19 positive passenger aboard.
The message from the prime minister could signal a more restrictive tone for all outbound travel, worrisome to people employed in the sector.
Instead of a ban, the coalition of tourism and accommodation associations says the government should instead work with the industry to better educate travellers on health and safety protocols.
“We’re very, very clear on what the laws are. There is no law to not travel at the moment,” said Al Valente, the owner of Windsor-based Valente travel. “(Trudeau) strongly recommended against non-essential travel, which we respect and tell our clients. We’re not promoting leisure travel at the moment.”
Valente said staff at his agency are working twice as hard to keep up with constantly changing regulations and getting clients home safely — for nearly nothing in return.
He tells CTV Windsor his business was down more than 90 per cent in 2020 and is hoping for some government aid to stay afloat.
“We are the epicentre of this disease and our industry has just been hammered completely,” Valente said.
The coalition also believes a non-essential travel ban would heighten unnecessary fear and misperceptions towards visitors and further cripple the already struggling industry.
“I would love to see people travel but I’d also love this situation to be over with,” said Valente.
When air travel will return to normal is unclear, but Valente is projecting restrictions to be loosened sometime in the Fall, when GE projects pent-up demand will pack planes once again.
“It’s a trying time for the industry, we are in this though 100 per cent,” Valente said. “We’re waiting it out and we hope to see everybody at the other side.”