By late June, Louise Harris and her wife Betty Wood had received both of their COVID-19 vaccinations. Shortly afterwards, they began entertaining the idea of travelling to Nova Scotia in the fall to visit a friend. It would be their first time on a plane and the first trip out-of-province for the Toronto, Ont.-based couple since the pandemic began.
“[Nova Scotia] has super high vaccination rates, really good contact tracing and have mostly managed to stay open,” Ms. Harris explains. “We felt pretty comfortable that we’d be safe going there, and that things would still be open, like restaurants and attractions.”
In late July, they booked a 10-day trip through Nova Scotia in mid-September. Ms. Harris and Ms. Wood spent a few days camping, then visited galleries, attended artisan workshops, and went kayaking and whale-watching.
For the Harris-Woods, early autumn was an ideal season to travel. “We timed it for pretty shortly after kids went back to school, before anything could close down as a result of [the start of the school year],” Ms. Harris explains, anticipating a fourth wave of lockdowns.
This year, many Canadians, like the Harris-Woods, are booking vacations in the fall. For tourism boards like Destination British Columbia, shoulder seasons – off-peak dates – are a time to recoup revenue lost due to COVID-19 while appealing to travel-starved tourists.
“Focusing on fall is not something we’ve normally done,” explains Maya Lange, vice-president of global marketing for Destination BC. But this year, Destination B.C. launched fall marketing campaigns to target tourists in Alberta, Ontario and within British Columbia. The latest point of outreach is into Washington State, thanks to international flights opening back up to fully vaccinated travellers as of Sept. 7.
Autumn represents a unique and ideal time for travel this year. More Canadians are vaccinated and feeling increasingly comfortable with boarding an airplane and travelling further afield. Fall 2021 is proving to be a sweet spot of high vaccination rates and consistent reopening before the fourth wave potentially leads to further lockdowns.
New travel and tourism experiences are helping to fuel the desire for fall travel. The Golden Skybridge, in Golden, B.C., opened in June as the highest suspension bridge in Canada. A month later, in Malahat, 30 minutes north of Victoria, the Malahat Skywalk opened to the public. Visitors can venture along a 600-metre-long circular walkway, rising 20 metres high to a lookout point with views over inlets, fjords and into Washington State.
Fall is also a great time for observing wildlife. The Klahoose Wilderness Resort is a newIndigenous-owned property in B.C.’s Desolation Sound and their grizzly bear tours are offered between August and October, when salmon migrate from the ocean into rivers to spawn. Mid-October to mid-November is also prime viewing season for polar bears inChurchill, Man. As of March, visitors from Montreal and Calgary can book direct flights to Churchill, skipping the usual stopover in Winnipeg.
There are also a few new fall experiences happening closer to city centres. New art centres, like Daphne in Montreal, showcase Indigenous artists through exhibitions, workshops and residencies, while the Qaumajuq is a new Inuit Art Centre connected to the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Great art experiences can also be found outside of traditional settings. There are several immersive art installations, like Imagine Van Gogh, which ran in Winnipeg, Quebec City during the pandemic, is still open in Edmonton and Vancouver, and opens in Saskatoon on Sept. 30; and Immersive Van Gogh in Toronto. These installations put visitors in a room surrounded by large-scale projections of the famed Dutch painter’s works. The installations are often hosted in warehouselike venues, which not only help convey the scale and immensity of the installations, but also help guests maintain physical distancing. In Toronto, Immersive Van Gogh will be followed by an Immersive Klimt exhibition, launching Oct. 21.
In Montreal, Arsenal Contemporary Art, which hosted Imagine Van Gogh in 2019, is the site of a new immersive art installation called The Infinite. Using footage filmed aboard the International Space Station, while taking advantage of technology like virtual reality, augmented reality and projections, participants can experience the daily lives of astronauts.
“Because we’ve been so limited in what was possible in the summer, we’ve really looked at how we can extend the summer into the fall,” Ms. Lange explains. “September and October are turning into really great travel months, especially in the southern half of B.C. By doing good marketing and focusing on what there is to offer and helping to highlight those activities, we’re building demand locally.”