‘Long overdue’: Tourism industry welcomes lifting of non-essential travel advisory

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The travel industry is welcoming the federal government’s “long overdue” move to lift Granthshala advice asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country.

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“You can’t believe how welcome this move is for us,” said Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Canada-based international tour operator G Adventures. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s too late given what’s happening in the rest of the world. But very welcome, that’s for sure.”

The Granthshala travel advisory was implemented in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe.

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The Canadian government’s website now shows that the advisory no longer exists, although it continues to list individual advisories for destination countries, as it did before the pandemic.

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It also urges Canadians to ensure they are fully immunized against the novel coronavirus before traveling abroad, and to be aware of the COVID-19 situation at their destination.

Canada has been slower than many other countries to remove its blanket advice against international travel, and it has been disappointing for the Canadian travel industry, Poon Tip said. He said a drop in demand for travel has forced his own company to lay off 1,000 people – more than half of its worldwide workforce.

“It has been a tough time, making these kinds of decisions. I have had to make the toughest decisions in 30 years,” he said.

However, Poon Tip said he has seen a significant increase in demand for Canadians’ travel over the past few months, something he attributes to growing confidence in the wake of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination.

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“We’ve hired 30 people over the past few months just to answer inquiries, and we’re constantly rehiring, which is a great feeling,” he said.

At Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, founder and chief executive Leslie Keiter said she’s seen a dramatic increase in inquiries and bookings over the past two months. But she said removing the federal government’s blanket travel advisory would add an extra layer of comfort for some people.

“I bet it would convince the people who were on the fence. They would feel a little safer doing that,” Keiter said.

Removing the Granthshala travel advisory should make it easier for Canadians to purchase travel insurance, depending on their destination and their COVID-19 risk profile, Keyter said.

Although the federal government continues to advise against travel on cruise ships, something Keiter said will continue to negatively impact the Canadian travel agency industry.

“I am extremely disappointed that they are lifting the blanket ban, but they are still keeping this level 4 advisory for cruises,” Keiter said.

“Honestly, having been on two cruises in the past few months, I felt safer on the cruise than my overnight hotel in Toronto.”

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Canada last month opened its borders to non-essential international travelers who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada, and fully vaccinated travelers from the United States in August.

The US government recently announced that its land borders will reopen to non-essential Canadian travelers on November 8.

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