Melissa Lopez-Martinez CTVNews.ca
TORONTO — As lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted around the world, the travel industry is looking at ways to get Canadians back on board.
While airlines, hotels and cruise ships are eager to open their doors, experts say convincing Canadians to travel again will be a tough sell.
Incentives are being introduced by airlines, resorts and hotels as a way to bring aboard new passengers, according to Allison Wallace, vice-president of communications at Flight Centre Canada.
“We should see better pricing and if not better pricing better value and that can be a room upgrade, it could be resort credits, it could be on board credits for cruise ships,” Wallace told CTV News.
Air Canada recently announced revisions to their goodwill policy that will allow customers of cancelled flights due to COVID-19 the option to receive either a travel voucher with no expiry date or bonus Aeroplan miles.
The airline also promised to reduce airfare for domestic flights as it introduced its new summer schedule including domestic and international flights. However, the airline is on a long road to recovery as it has been down 97 flights from the 220 it had the previous year amid the pandemic.
Tamer Hanna is among the many Canadians who had a flight cancelled because of the novel coronavirus. Hanna’s $5,000 Italian trip was put on hold and he received a credit for the flight but said he wants a refund.
“The travel situation is not going to be the same and its really about the safety of myself and my family at this point,” Hanna said in an interview with CTV News.
Many airlines are also catering to the post-pandemic world by introducing new cleaning measures and reconfigured seating. While these measures can help ensure safer travel, McGill University business professor Karl Moore said they will likely cost more for businesses to stay afloat.
“When you take away the middle seat at best you can get the planes maybe 70 per cent full, but at 70 per cent the planes can’t make money and that’s not a viable business model for them,” Moore in an interview with CTV News.
Travel experts say the new travel incentives are enticing, but the risk remains high. With COVID-19 now a known risk, companies are no longer offering travel insurance to cover the cost if Canadians become ill abroad.
President of Travel Secure Inc. Martin Firestone told CTV News that with no coverage, travellers risk incurring high hospital costs if they catch the virus while travelling.
“Quite frankly if you’re away and that second bout or third bout they talk about hits, you have the dilemma of having no coverage and being stuck in an emergency room in a hospital and you’re paying the tab,” Firestone said.
Industry leaders said travel interest is slowly picking up again, with most Canadians interested in domestic trips.