Canadian travelers rethink vacation plans as Omicron variant spreads – .

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Canadian travelers rethink vacation plans as Omicron variant spreads – .


Canadian travel agents are navigating the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 as customers cancel reservations and reconsider vacation travel.

While it is too early to know how the Omicron variant, which public health officials in Southern Africa identified last week, will affect the travel industry, some travelers have already canceled plans to visit Europe, Africa and the Middle East in the coming months.

Judith Coates, travel agent and founder of the Canadian Association of Independent Travel Consultants, said she recently received travel cancellations to Egypt and Israel after Canada tightened travel restrictions this week.

“I advise people to stay calm and wait and see what happens, but sometimes it’s hard for people not to panic,” Coates said.

On Tuesday, Ottawa stepped up its defenses against the Omicron variant with new testing and quarantine requirements for inbound air travelers from all countries except the United States.

With seven cases of the variant detected in Canada on Tuesday afternoon, Ottawa announced new requirements for most air travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to undergo government-provided molecular tests upon arrival at Canadian airports. from abroad.

This is in addition to the existing requirement to be tested and receive a negative result within 72 hours before flying to Canada.

The government also banned foreign nationals who traveled to three other African countries – Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria -om visiting Canada, just days after banning travel from seven other countries, including South Africa.

Kristin Hoogendoorn, a travel agent for Toronto-based KMH Travels, said customers are more likely to cancel their reservations if they are traveling to the Middle East, Europe or Africa. The bulk of its bookings go to the Caribbean at this time of year, so few have canceled, but many have expressed concern.

“People will hear the word variant and they will see it all over the news and they will panic,” Hoogendoorn told The Canadian Press.

“This variation feels like a punch to our tiny little sector, which keeps getting beaten, and if people cancel I don’t know how long we would be able to survive. “

The Canadian travel industry was reborn after months of restricted mobility at the border when news of the Omicron variant surfaced. In early November, Air Canada reported that domestic pleasure bookings were picking up and travelers were once again heading to sunny destinations.

The National Airlines Council of Canada said the industry has implemented the federal government’s mandatory vaccination policy for aviation employees and passengers in recent weeks.

While the board said the impact of the variant will be “manageable”, it warned that “the economic uncertainty facing aviation cannot be overstated”.

Karlee Marshall, travel consultant with Toronto-based Glenny Travel, said many of her clients are “very nervous” about traveling, although she encourages them to wait for more information to appear on the map. variant.

“People don’t like strangers. But we tell them to wait and see – we have to find out more about the variant first, ”Marshall said.

As of Tuesday, Canada had identified seven cases of Omicron – four in Ottawa, one in Quebec City and two in Hamilton.

Very little is known about the new variant first discovered in South Africa in November. Omicron has a large number of mutations and the World Health Organization believes it is more transmissible and has already spread widely.

The discovery of the variant triggered travel bans around the world, with several countries moving to ban travel to and from countries in South Africa. But Omicron has already been discovered in places like Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Israel, Portugal, and the UK.

In some cases, travelers who tested positive for Omicron did not report any connection to South Africa.

Still, travel agents say they expect a continued upturn in travel in 2022.

“We’re starting to learn to live with COVID-19, I think. It might not go away completely, but I think we’re coming to a place where travel can continue even in the age of the pandemic, ”said Richard Smart, CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario.

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