CALGARY — Canadians who've been vaccinated against COVID-19 want to know just how far that jab will take them before they head out on that first post-pandemic vacation, travel agents say.
Industry professionals say their phones are "ringing off the hook" with questions from clients about how their vaccination status may affect travel plans. As of July 5, Canadians who have received a double dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine no longer have to quarantine for two weeks upon their return home. That combined with plummeting case counts is driving an uptick in travel demand, experts say.
But many Canadians appear to still be confused about vaccine protocols they may encounter on their flight or cruise or at their resort or hotel. According to travel agents, some Canadians who are fully vaccinated are looking for assurances that their fellow travellers will be too.
"There's a group of travellers that are just so happy to be able to travel again that they’re not going to be as concerned," said Allison Wallace, Vancouver-based spokeswoman for Flight Centre Travel Group. "But there’s definitely a portion of the population that’s very concerned.”
Already, some tourism operators have developed their own protocols to give vaccinated travellers peace of mind. Norwegian Cruise Line announced this spring it would require full proof of vaccination from travellers before they board. Royal Caribbean has taken a different tack by establishing a two-tiered system on one of its ships this summer. Passengers who can't provide proof of vaccination will be barred from certain areas of the ship, like the spa and casino, and will also have to eat at different times than fully vaccinated passengers.
Wallace said enforcing separate rules for different categories of passengers could prove very difficult.
"We’ve already seen people in just regular businesses and stores who don’t think they have to abide by the rules. I think you’re going to have a lot of confrontations and there’s going to be a lot of frustration,” she said.
Still, Wallace said travellers are likely to encounter vaccine-based privileges and restrictions for a while, at least until the tourism industry recovers from the economic impact of the pandemic.
"The industry as a whole understands that confidence is key. And if there’s big outbreak at a resort or a cruise line, the negative connotations that go along with that . . . can really hurt businesses,” she said.
Ken Stewart, owner of Crowfoot Travel Solutions in Calgary, said he is fielding a lot of questions about travelling with children who are still too young to have their vaccinations. He said the answers vary depending on the destination, and he can usually only provide a "best guess" as to what the situation will be next month, or even next week.
"Things change on a daily basis, and sometimes I'm as confused as my clients," Stewart.
One thing that's clear, Stewart said, is that for the immediate future, travelling is going to be much easier for those who are vaccinated than those who aren't.
Lesley Keyter, founder and chief executive of The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, agrees.
“I heard a story yesterday about some people, unvaccinated, who headed off to Greece on holiday and then couldn’t get into any restaurants because they had to show proof of vaccination,” she said. "You have to be so careful checking all the requirements before you leave. It's all about the fine details."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2021.
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press