Are you traveling over the holidays?
According to Statistics Canada, the number of trips made by Canadians from January to March 2021 was 42.7% of trips made in that same period in 2019. Of those, 98.4% of trips were domestic, compared to about 85% in the same pre-pandemic period and tourism spending abroad decreased by 92.7%.
After border restrictions were loosened in the summer, there was an increase in demand for travel bookings for the holiday season and into 2022. Now, the omicron variant and rapidly changing travel restrictions are disrupting holiday plans for many Canadians.
Be cautious when traveling
Unlike last holiday season, travel and gatherings are not being discouraged because most Canadians are now vaccinated but uncertainty around the omicron strain means travelers should be cautious.
Infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, told CBC News that there are steps people can take to minimize their risk during holiday gatherings. Wearing a mask, distancing, being outside, improving ventilation, and getting vaccinated are all effective ways of reducing your risk of contracting COVID-19.
"The risk has become so much smaller of severe disease," he said. "If you're vaccinated, the chance of you being hospitalized is extremely small at this point."
What you can do to reduce travel uncertainty this holiday season
Travel restrictions are changing quickly so it is important to be proactive when making travel plans this holiday season.
Book through a travel agent
Travel Industry Council of Ontario CEO and president Richard Smart says that purchasing and understanding travel insurance and booking through a travel agent can help you adapt to changing restrictions. “Be as informed as possible,” he says, “because rules are changing all the time.”
Using a travel agent when traveling over the holidays is a good way to stay informed. Manager of Ottawa-based travel agency Phoenicia Travel told CBC News that "When you're selling a ticket to your client, you have to do the homework at the same time."
Buy travel insurance
Group insurance through work or credit card travel insurance might not be enough. Make sure to have out-of-province medical insurance, trip cancellation coverage, and trip interruption insurance. This way, you are not risking high expenses if you become ill and will be refunded if you must cancel your trip or return early.
Keep your travel documentation up to date
Make sure your documents are up to date and stay informed about what is required. Travelers entering Canada need to upload proof of vaccination to the ArriveCan app and different destinations have different requirements.
"Travel documentation required by destination vary. You may need to have certain proof of inoculations and vaccines in addition to COVID," says Smart. "So, travel documentation is critical."
He says that "the only constant is change itself. And I expect that there will be more changes in the days and weeks ahead. So be informed, be informed, be informed."