People who work in the travel industry in New Brunswick are starting to see signs of life in a business that was hard hit by COVID-19 restrictions.
And while the desire in New Brunswickers to travel abroad is still a bit tentative, travel advisers say there's been a noticeable increase in the number of people booking a trip.
"Absolutely," according to Francine Patterson, a travel adviser with Maritime Travel in Moncton. "Especially in the last month."
Patterson said there have been a few bookings for fall, but most seem to be interested in travel from Christmastime of 2021 and into the spring of 2022, especially Caribbean resorts and cruises.
Saint John travel adviser Ellen Tucker is seeing a similar trend.
"People are booking for 2022, not ," Tucker said.
"They're booking for Canada, Alaskan cruises, and river cruises [in Europe] for 2022."
It has been a tough 16 months for the industry. Tucker closed her office mid-pandemic because the business dried up. Now, she's working from home, booking trips for longtime clients.
"Over 40 years I've been doing this. It's all I know," Tucker said.
The industry has seen lots of layoffs and closures, some tourism sites have closed for good, and even though travellers are starting to book trips again, there is limited product available.
Patterson said the people looking to travel are those who are fully vaccinated, and they feel comfortable with a trip now. She also said they don't seem too particular about finding a good price, suggesting they're booking using money they didn't spend during the pandemic.
"I think people think they need to do it now," Tucker said, "They've had it. They've been stuck for these two years and they just want to do it now."
But that doesn't mean things are returning to the way they were.
"People are still wary," Tucker said, "This is why all the tour companies say you can cancel for any reason."
"Tour operators are trying to work with the situation as best as they can," said Patterson.
Potential travellers also want to know companies are doing everything that can possibly be done to keep them safe, especially cruise lines.
Patterson said cruises are requiring proof of vaccinations, and are touting new cleaning and hygiene procedures.
As well, certain higher risk elements of cruising are gone. For instance, the ubiquitous cruise ship buffet is a thing of the past.
But, in spite of the fact that cruise ships became a big story during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, Tucker said cruises are selling well.
Caution still important
"I know Regent, a higher-end cruise line, their around-the-world cruises are sold out for 2022. Now, those are smaller ships, about 900 passengers max," she said.
"But even the larger around-the-world cruises, like Cunard [Cruise Lines] are well-booked."
Tucker is still surprised by some travellers' willingness to book trips like the European river cruise that visits Christmas Markets along the Danube or Rhine Rivers.
"It surprises me because that's crowds," Tucker said, "Those markets, a lot of the local people are there late in the afternoon and for me that's a big part of it, to get the local flavour.
"I know I wouldn't go now. The word is still caution, and know what you're getting into. I tell everyone 'Read all the fine print.'"