Travel agencies see increase in bookings, inquiries as vaccination rates climb in B.C.
VANCOUVER -- Many people have been dreaming of the day when they’ll be able to travel again. Now with vaccination rates continuing to rise, travel agencies are experiencing an upswing in inquiries and bookings, as people make plans in anticipation of restrictions being lifted.
In Vancouver, The Travel Group manager Kathy Moore said they began to notice the increased interest “as soon as people started to get vaccinated."
“Vaccinations made a big difference,” she said. “People really want to travel, they want to get out of their homes and on the move.”
Moore said people are hoping to travel domestically in the short term, but some are already looking at next year for bigger trips abroad.
“I think people are still hoping to travel in B.C. and possibly in Canada in summer, that would be mostly I think to go home and visit family,” she said. “But after that it’s people that want to go further...2022 is getting so that you can hardly find space.”
Flight Centre spokesperson Allison Wallace said interest has really picked up over the past month, including a rise in flight bookings to the U.S. for the fall, and looking at winter travel to Mexico and the Caribbean.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in inquiry as well as some bookings,” she said, and added bookings are being made several months ahead, both later this year or even early next year.
“People are sort of thinking, ‘I think the border’s probably going to reopen by the fall,'” she said. “People are really starting to look now because there’s all this pent up demand.”
When it comes to sunny destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, Wallace said group spaces are booking up faster than they have in the past.
“We’re seeing a lot of competition from the U.S.,” she said. “Think about all of those destination weddings that have been postponed, all of the family reunions.”
Wallace said there’s also strong interest in cruises for next year.
“Cruisers tend to be among the most loyal travellers out there,” she said. “Cruise lines, while they suffered the most negative publicity around all of this, there is a very, very loyal faction and we are seeing very strong numbers for 2022, just not immediately.”
Wallace said though travellers may notice more flexibility being offered in terms of cancellations and changes to try and lure back business, it’s important to know the details of those policies, especially considering COVID-19 is now a known factor.
“What we’re seeing largely are particularly hotels and resorts allowing cancellations a lot closer to departure dates than every before. So rather than say, 30 days, it’s like 48 hours to a week. So that’s significant,” she said. “Most airlines are offering at least one free change, but again, you want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting. Are you going to be getting credit back? Are you going to be getting cash back? What’s important to you?”
She added it’s anticipated proof of vaccination will be “very important” for travel, especially early on.
“If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not going on a cruise anytime soon,” she said.
Wallace said the current requirement for quarantine upon return is also something that has some people waiting to book a trip, to see if things change.
“Will you still have to do the quarantine, or will you be OK if you have a negative test and your vaccine?” She said. “So still a lot of questions to be answered.”
Moore has her own plans for a European river cruise next year.
“The cruise business is coming out with very strict guidelines. Anybody that can be vaccinated will have to be vaccinated,” she said. “Nobody’s going to travel unless it’s a safe environment, and nobody wants to, but I think it will be safe.”
Moore added there’s also interest in the Maritimes, with three groups booking trips to Newfoundland over the next to years.
She advised avoiding bookings with non-refundable deposits, but also encouraged people to make plans if they are hoping to getaway.
“If you want to go, you shouldn’t put it off too long, because then you’ll be very frustrated with trying to book things and not get anything,” she said. “So find flexibility, and book it.”
Wallace said it feels like there’s an optimism that wasn’t there six months ago.
“People are definitely feeling confident that they’re going to be able to travel. It’s a question of what their options are,” she said. “I think we need something to look forward to now.”