More people looking to travel again

Cierra McNeill has a date with Mickey Mouse.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/02/2022 (181 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Cierra McNeill has a date with Mickey Mouse.

And Goofy, and Pluto, and any other character she happens to meet during her April trip to Walt Disney World. It’s been two years since the 23-year-old has hopped on a plane.

“I haven’t travelled for so long,” she said. “I just want to go places.”

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Rick Gaudet, owner of Fareconnect Travel & Cruise Centre, says he’s noticed a big increase in trips planned this winter compared to last.

She’s not concerned about contracting COVID-19, nor has she worried much about government travel regulations — after all, they’ll likely change by the time she’s ready to board, she said.

Her friends are heading south too, to Mexico and other warm destinations.

“People… want to go on and live their lives,” McNeill said.

Tribune Media TNS Many Manitobans are heading to Mexico, where fully vaccinated travellers don’t need a COVID-19 test to enter. (Brad Calkins / Dreamstime files)

Rick Gaudet, who owns Fareconnect Travel, returned from Cancun a few weeks ago and is now handling an influx of Winnipeg clients looking to leave.

Business is up 75 per cent from this time last year, Gaudet estimated. Most customers are heading to Mexico, where fully vaccinated travellers don’t need a COVID-19 test to enter.

“I think originally there were a lot of people worried about getting COVID,” Gaudet said. “I’ve seen a shift a little bit in that the last couple of months.”

CP Travellers need a negative molecular test to re-enter Canada. Costs vary but could amount to $200 per test. (Victor Ruiz / The Associated Press files)

Polymerase chain reaction testing and Canada’s quarantine requirements top the list of concerns for the average Manitoban traveller, Gaudet said.

“If the PCR test gets removed… I think there will be a big jump in business, for sure,” Gaudet said. “It’s a lot to do with those costs.”

Currently, travellers need a negative molecular test to re-enter Canada (and sometimes to leave). Costs vary but could amount to $200 per test.

CP After two years of dealing with the pandemic, people are starting to travel again. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press files)

Canada’s minister of health is expected to announce travel restriction changes later this week.

Fareconnect Travel’s traffic hasn’t come anywhere near pre-pandemic levels, despite the big surge, Gaudet said.

“It’s all relative,” he said. “You compare (our sales) to what we had on the books for 2019, (and) we’re still only at about 20 per cent.”

Lesli Malegus, the owner of Selkirk Travel, said she’s noticed a spike in business over the past couple weeks.

She believes the anticipation of the PCR test requirement being scrapped has more people eager to vacation.

“The cost was an issue,” she said, adding a lot of people have recovered from COVID-19, making them ready to travel.

“Don’t get me wrong: we’re still in a pandemic situation, but the more people that are vaccinated, (and) the less testing and rules that we have to follow to travel, the more confident people will be in travel,” Malegus said.

Clients are more worried about quarantining abroad than being sick with the virus, she said.

Receiving a false positive test, resulting in a need to quarantine, is also a commonly cited concern, Malegus said.

That’s the worry for Darren Swire. The 43-year-old is visiting Orlando in April for his daughter’s cheerleading tournament. Both contracted COVID-19 last month and have since recovered.

“You can test positive for six months, I’m told, after having it,” said the triple-vaccinated dad. “So my concern is going down and not actually catching it again, but a test coming back saying positive.”

Swire said he went to a government test site in January but was turned away due to backlogs, meaning he has no official record of his previous illness.

Being forced to quarantine in a hotel room is expensive, Swire said. It also prolongs his return to work and his daughter’s to school.

“(I’m) definitely nervous and concerned about how this will play out,” he said, adding he’s excited to watch his teen cheerlead abroad for the first time in over two years.

The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable — made up of industry leaders such as the heads of the Canada Airports Council and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce — released an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday. The lobby group called on Ottawa to unveil a clear timeline on removing travel restrictions for fully-vaccinated travellers and their kids.

“(This includes) removing unnecessary pre-departure and on-arrival testing and isolation requirements and blanket travel advisories,” the letter reads.

The Winnipeg Airports Authority stands with the call, said Tyler MacAfee, the organization’s vice-president of communications and government relations.

“We’ve reached the point in this where we’re starting to live with the virus,” MacAfee said. “Travel’s part of that.”

The WAA counted 1.2 million passengers last year, down from a pre-pandemic high of 4.5 million. Things will come back, but restrictions need to lift, MacAfee said.

“Travellers are a healthy population, and the people who are working in the industry have all been required to be vaccinated,” he said.

CAA Manitoba is already booking destination weddings for 2023, according to regional manager Susan Postma. And, the company is experiencing an uptick in travel to hot spots like Mexico and Hawaii this winter.

“Planning and preparedness is probably more essential now than it ever has been when travelling,” Postma said.

Buying travel insurance is important, she added.

Countries including Denmark, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have scrapped travel restrictions for those who are vaccinated.

Bookings to sunny destinations via Tripcentral.ca have topped 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, according to president Richard Vanderlubbe.

– With files from The Canadian Press

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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Updated on Monday, February 14, 2022 8:20 PM CST: Adds photo

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