Pandemic Travel: Where Can We Go and How Can We Get There?
Travel is slowly opening up despite the ongoing pandemic, but questions of where we can go, how we can get there and the risks involved remain. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Move over “transformative,” “experiential” and “sustainable.” The new travel buzzwords — “trust,” “confidence” and “flexibility” — have, well, a rather more staid ring to them.
And be aware that, in terms of travel, this new COVID-19 reality means that what might be here today could be gone tomorrow. If you’re ready to travel, take a read here first for tips on ensuring a safer journey or staycation.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Yes, the reality of pandemic travel could seem almost as fraught as Steve Martin’s desperate attempt to get home in time for Thanksgiving in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. That said, humans really are the wild card. Trust is wobbly, with some people still not adhering to face-covering mandates.
They’ll just have to get used to it, however. Masks must be worn while on board both airplanes and trains. A note here that airplanes are outfitted in the latest air-filtering technology and are regarded as quite safe, but even so nothing is 100 per cent assured. And Via Rail is now running trains through Ontario and Quebec, practising physical distancing when seating passengers. As for automobiles, sales in used cars as well as RV rentals are apparently through the roof. One stat quoted a 1,700 per cent increase in recreational vehicles’ popularity. Social distancing, indeed.
The Euro Zone
At press time, Canada has made the safe list of more than a dozen countries considered welcome to travel to Europe. Interesting, as the global back and forth usually hinges on reciprocity (Canada is still closed to anyone but Canadians and essential travellers). But the EU’s not about to lose out on the almighty tourism dollar as summer gets into high gear.
Since March, however, the Schengen countries of the European Union — which normally have free-flow of the citizens of its 26 member countries with open borders to each other — have reinstated soft borders and with them, rules regarding quarantine periods and who can come and go. Currently, many countries such as Greece, Austria, Germany and France have lifted quarantine restrictions to the safe list, but that itself is subject to change and revised every two weeks.
Travel Insurance Options
Guaranteeing that you can get some sort of “out” or recompense if you have to change or cancel your plans is getting even more dicey. Options are limited, particularly for international travel, but there are a few champions. For example, Zooming: The Zoomer Travel Club partner Collette Tours Canada has a clear protection plan.
“The plan is both full cancellation-for-any-reason waiver and out-of-country medical, and covers COVID-19,” says Brett Walker, general manager at Collette. “Guests are covered. Period.” They also offer a full cash refund, minus the insurance premium. “And our plan is not age based, it’s one price for all.” It’s usually about $350 per person, but in these times, can you put a price on being at ease? Click here for more information.
During the crisis, travel agents and advisors worked double-time to get their clients home. They were also advocating to tour companies, hotels and airlines for refunds and rescheduling flexibility, using their contacts and connections. And those that do use a travel agent are more confident in booking sooner than later.
“Many travellers are hesitant to travel internationally until there is a vaccine. That said, our travel advisors are seeing an increase in bookings for 2021/2022, particularly European river cruises and escorted tours,” says Tim Morgan, director, business strategy, Canada, for Virtuoso, a network of approximately 3,000 travel advisors across the country.
“We’re also fielding requests for domestic travel for the next few months and with popular Caribbean locations becoming more accessible beginning in Fall 2020,” he adds.
The majority of travel providers are offering very flexible booking options, as well as special pricing. Savvy travellers, notes Morgan, are taking advantage of this, feeling comfortable that, should they need to change their travels, they can.