Canadians are keen to get back to international vacations next year, but remain wary of the risks associated with commercial travel during the pandemic – according to the results of a survey by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA).
The survey, conducted among 1,000 participants across Canada in October 2020, found that while there was considerable demand for international travel, the health risks posed by the pandemic remain front and centre in the minds of Canadians when planning vacations for 2021.
Survey Shows Travelers Concerned About Health Measures
Overall, the results of the survey showed that the vast majority of people – 80% of respondents – planned to travel in 2021, providing a boost to airlines and the tourism industry which have suffered from travel restrictions and lockdowns forcing people to cancel vacations since the pandemic began.
However, there was some divergence in responses in terms of when and where Canadians would plan to vacation in the new year. Notably, a significant 53% of Canadians said that they would only travel abroad once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, with just 29% saying they would be willing to take international vacations at present.
While there has been some success in the trial outcomes of at least three vaccine candidates in recent weeks, none of them is expected to be widely available until at least mid-2021, with Health Canada planning for 3 million people to be inoculated in the first three months of the new year under a best-case scenario.
This would therefore leave international travel off the table for a large proportion of Canadians over the coming months until the vaccine is rolled out across the country.
Before the vaccine becomes available, Canadians will continue to prioritize safety measures during travel, with 74% of respondents to the survey saying that they would want commercial transport providers to operate below maximum capacity and allow space for social distancing.
Many airlines are already using enhanced safety and cleaning protocols to ensure that customers face low risks of exposure to the virus while flying.
Another top concern for Canadian travelers is access to healthcare abroad, with 62% of people saying that they would want their insurance providers to confirm that they and their party would be covered if they fall ill with COVID-19 while on vacation.
While many insurance providers now offer coverage for COVID-19, this is something travelers will want to be sure of as the pandemic continues.
According to Will McAleer, THIA’s Executive Director and spokesperson, the “travel insurance industry is responding to consumers’ needs for assurances and a growing number of our members are offering specialized COVID-19 coverage”.
However, he also cautioned that “many companies are waiting for the Canadian government to reduce the level three travel advisory before offering new insurance products”.
Airlines To Make Safety A Priority
The results of this survey show that airlines and tour companies need to step up their efforts to persuade Canadians that traveling during the pandemic can still be safe in order to get people back on international vacations.
The aviation industry has already been rolling out a number of measures in order to get people flying safely and win back customers – notably with the COVID-19 testing programs being carried out at Calgary International Airport. The airport has become a pioneer of new safety protocols including testing for COVID-19 on arrival and, in partnership with WestJet, offering pre-flight testing for passengers traveling to Hawaii.
The aim of the programs is to demonstrate that international travel can still happen safely during the pandemic. It is hoped that once COVID-19 testing is rolled out to other airports in the country, it will help to convince Canadians to return to international travel before a vaccine is available.
However, given the results of the survey, more work is clearly needed to convince Canadian travelers that returning to their normal vacation habits is a safe option.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories