The airline and hospitality sector winces anew as new border rules clamp down on travel again. This is largely in response to the news of the highly contagious Omicron virus. Airline customers have been cancelling bookings by the thousands, said Air Transport Association of Canada CEO John McKenna.
The decline in international trips will likely prompt a slowdown in regional ones, since the two feed into one another, and anxiety over the highly transmissible strain will further discourage domestic travel.
Federal ministers warned Wednesday that more measures at the border could still be on the way, and did not rule out the possibility of reinstating the requirement for travellers who leave the country for less than 72 hours to complete a molecular COVID-19 test in order to re-enter the country.
They also expanded on the current policy of banning foreign nationals who have been in 10 specific African countries in the last 14 days from entering Canada to further offset the threat of importing Omicron cases. While some travel-related entities are relieved by updates to this policy, others say it needs more clarification and still has potential to do more harm than good.
The rates of positivity among fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air were 0.17 per cent, according to numbers provided by Public Health Agency of Canada’s Public Health Operations Branch, during the week of Nov. 14-20th, with a similar rate for land arrivals as well — adding that “virtually no activity outside international travel demands proof” of negative molecular test results from vaccinated individuals.
A lack of clear communication from the government, combined with anxiety over the virus and ever-changing rules, is causing much confusion for both travellers and those in the travel industry.
The Travel Industry Association of Canada is urging Ottawa to work more closely with the industry to ensure that advisories and border measures are clearly communicated. 14,000 agents stand to lose business due to cancellations as a result of this latest advisory.
Marty Firestone, president of Travel Secure says that “The insurers are themselves telling you they see little risk” for those who are vaccinated and advises people to buy travel insurance plans that cover COVID-19 costs at no extra charge.
It remains to be seen how all of these new announcements will play out, but it is likely that further measures at the border and less business for travel agents could be on the horizon.