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Having received his COVID-19 vaccine, Clayton Outwater did what he’d been wanting to do since the start of the pandemic: He booked a Caribbean cruise.
The week-long Norwegian Cruise Line voyage isn’t slated to depart New Orleans until Jan. 23, 2022, but Outwater, 81, hopes the Canadian government will ease international travel restrictions long before then.
“I’ve got until Sept. 25 to cancel and get my money back or rebook,” the Hamilton resident says. His trip hinges on the lifting of rules that require all returning travellers to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days, starting with a mandatory three-night prepaid booking at a government-authorized hotel. “I love cruises, but not that much,” he adds.
Like Outwater, many Canadians want to get away in the coming months. An October survey by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada found that 80 per cent of 1,000 respondents plan to travel in 2021, with 71 per cent intending to stay in Canada and 29 per cent hoping to venture abroad.
What’s far less clear is when, where and how those plans can and should be put into action. Based on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s March reaffirmation that every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated will be able to do so by the end of September, many industry insiders believe the country will be well on its way to relative travel normalcy by early fall.
“At this point it’s time to pick a date and work towards it,” says Beth Potter, president of the Travel Industry Association of Canada. “This virus isn’t going away anytime soon, not everybody is going to be vaccinated, so we need to learn to live with it and to do business while it’s around. These are the conversations we’re having with multiple government ministries – not just tourism, but with health, transportation and Border Services.”
As cloudy as the picture remains for the fall and winter of 2021, prospects for the summer are murkier still. In an effort to provide some clarity and inspiration for the busiest travel season, the guide that follows explores Canadians’ summer options and offers tentative new trip ideas.
Summer travel in Canada
What we know
With several provincial health authorities aiming to complete vaccination programs by the end of June, pressure is mounting on all levels of government to set targets for the easing of travel restrictions, says Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. “The tourism sector in Canada is slowly dying, and watching with envy the rebound that has already started in the United States. In addition, people do need a break to see family, go outdoors, recharge their bodies and minds, while of course avoiding crowds and respecting measures.”
What could reopen
Potter and Dimanche are both hopeful that widespread vaccinations, improved testing and dwindling COVID-19 case numbers will spur an easing of interprovincial restrictions by July 1. “At what percentage of the population being vaccinated will you open the door for travel again?” Dimanche asks rhetorically. “Because we know it won’t be 100 per cent.”
The prospect of non-essential travel returning to parts of the Maritimes brightened recently when it was announced that all adult Nova Scotians and Prince Edward Islanders who want a vaccination should be able to get their first shots by late June and July 1, respectively. The territories are even further along, with Nunavut and the Northwest Territories expecting to finish their rollouts of first and second doses by the end of April, and Yukon reportedly receiving enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March.
After being closed for most of 2020, the iconic West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island is reopening on June 4, with Parks Canada launching reservations for the 75-kilometre backcountry hike through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve at 8 a.m. PT on April 30.
The newly launched Ontario Water Trail combines kayaking or canoeing at the Madawaska Kanu Centre near Algonquin Park with whitewater rafting on the Ottawa River and a self-guided Rideau Canal cruise aboard a Le Boat houseboat.
On July 1, the long-defunct Canadian Niagara Power Generating Station just above Horseshoe Falls will begin its new life as a museum featuring interactive hydroelectricity exhibits and an immersive sound and light experience.
Summer travel abroad
What we know
WestJet’s chief commercial officer John Weatherill says that “it is our intention to fly internationally this summer” – and all of Canada’s international carriers have announced plans to add routes during what is typically the busiest season for international leisure travel.
As it stands, more than 40 countries allow Canadians to enter by air, with most enacting policies such as mandatory testing and insurance, or quarantines upon arrival. Vaccinated travellers have even more options. Iceland, for instance, reopened its borders on March 18 to all international visitors who present either a certificate of full vaccination or a certificate of previous COVID-19 infection.
With Tanzania’s borders open, the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti provides a luxurious base for travellers exploring Serengeti National Park. A new “Seven Days in the Serengeti” itinerary combines guided game-viewing with a day trip to the Ngorongoro Crater.
More than a dozen of Oregon’s fire-lookout towers are proving to be hugely popular with visitors seeking scenery, relatively inexpensive wilderness lodgings and built-in physical distancing.
Nepal recently lifted the suspension of international commercial flights and began permitting trekkers and mountaineers who have made official and approved bookings to enter the country. Toronto-based G Adventures, in turn, is offering a 15-day Everest Base Camp Trek in August.