Even as gasoline prices hit record highs, Canadians are scattering across the country for new travel experiences after two years of bottled up demand.
Beth Potter, head of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, says some vacationers are staying closer to home for camping, hiking and biking trips, and many are opting for road trips rather than expensive plane tickets, as fuel costs and inflation weigh heavily.
“When you think about those kinds of activities, they don’t always represent a huge strain on the family’s wallet,” Potter said.
The average price of regular gasoline across the country hit an all-time high of 197.4 cents per liter on Tuesday. But road trips may seem attractive regardless, as expensive jet fuel has also raised airfares.
“It’s a more acceptable alternative to other modes of transportation right now, where you’d be confined to a space with lots of other people, you have other restrictions imposed on you like wearing a mask, or you have proof of vaccination,” added Potier.
Double domestic travel
Canada remains the number one destination for Canadians in 2022, but even more than before the pandemic, said the president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, Wendy Paradis.
“People want to visit friends and family they haven’t seen. And there are people who are even more comfortable, with the pandemic not 100% behind us, staying in Canada,” she said.
While many Canadians are choosing to stay closer to home, some tour operators are doubling down on their domestic market presence.
Vancouver-based Destination Canada Tours has ramped up its day-tour offerings in and around Vancouver and Victoria, while marketing new getaways further afield for Canadians who have exhausted options close to home. last summer.
“We’ve seen Vancouver, we’ve seen Victoria, we love Whistler. Let’s just try somewhere else,” chief marketing officer Elyse Mailhot said, repeating the customer thought process.
Interest in the Rockies remains high, but bookings are on the rise for less explored places like northern British Columbia and the Territories, according to industry experts.
Near Yellowknife, Aurora Village, which used to host mainly East Asian tour groups, continues to welcome visitors eager to admire the Northern Lights between tepee warm-up sessions amid wood-burning stoves and buffalo skin blankets.
“Asia-Pacific is going to be one of the slowest to start traveling internationally. And so they’ve had to do a massive pivot…and they’ve had to get to know the Canadian traveler,” Potter said. about the operator. .
However, agencies are also seeing an increase in bookings for destinations around the world, from Italy and France to sun destinations.
Visits south of the border are also going up. But a hurdle remains in the US requirement that air travelers present a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test taken no more than a day before departure. That variable instead pushes vacationers who might be traveling to Florida or California to Mexico or the Caribbean, she said.
It also deters international business travel for Americans and foreigners, said aviation analyst Helane Becker.
“It’s really difficult. You’re not going to take a two or four day trip to London or even a week and not know if you can’t come back,” she said.
“Pack Your Patience”
Some countries continue to test international travelers upon arrival – Canada’s four largest airports do so randomly for fully vaccinated arrivals – with a positive test triggering days of isolation (10 in Canada).
Clogged airports caused in part by staffing shortages and COVID-19 testing procedures are another hurdle for would-be airmen.
But with many restrictions finally lifted following a claustrophobic pandemic, demand can no longer be clogged, said Marty Firestone, president of insurer Travel Secure.
“I see it going back to pretty much pre-pandemic times, as far as the summer ahead is concerned,” he said. “Pack your patience.”
The last week of April saw almost 460,000 travelers land in Canada on international flights, more than 17 times the number of arrivals in the same week a year earlier, but still two-thirds of the levels of 2019, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.