HIKERS ARE LIARS AND OTHER THINGS I'VE LEARNED HOSTING A TRAVEL SHOW
Nov. 22, 2020
Rapid Testing May Be The Answer To Get The Travel Industry Moving Again
My recent interview with Travel Advisor Ken Stewart, owner of Crowfoot Travel Solutions about his recent experience volunteering for the arrival COVID testing at the Calgary International Airport highlights the need for this program to be expanded across the country to every major airport in Canada, if not the world.
Click here for interview
Currently when travelers arrive into or return to Canada they are required to quarantine for 14 days. The new COVID testing trial at YYC and at the Coutts land border crossing gives people the opportunity to take a rapid test allowing them to quarantine for less time provided they test negative for COVID-19 and if they commit to following specific public health and testing measures. Upon arriving back from Cancun on Nov. 7, Ken chose to volunteer and two weeks later after going through the whole process (testing negative the whole time) gave the program a big 2 thumbs up.
In addition to Alberta's testing program, the Government of Canada in partnership with Air Canada and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority have been conducting a similar rapid testing trial at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. An interim report from that trial from McMaster Health Labs finds that rapid COVID-19 tests undertaken there support the call for reduced quarantine times. The study began on September 3 and interim results are based on more than 20,000 tests conducted on more than 8,600 study participants recruited from September 3 to October 2, 2020. The full results are expected to be shared in January of 2021.
Read more here
If you've listened to my show or read a few of my past blogs you'll know I've been critical of the 14 day quarantine that was set in place back in March. As an alternative to the 14 day quarantine rapid tests trials should have been implemented as soon as possible. It's encouraging news and what's more encouraging is that British Airways in partnership with American Airlines will start testing passengers flying from the US to London’s Heathrow Airport for COVID-19 in an effort to persuade the British government it should scrap rules requiring most international travelers to quarantine for 14 days. Passengers will be tested 72 hours before departure, on arrival at Heathrow and again three days after arrival. British Airways says its goal is to show that a single test 72 hours before takeoff is enough to ensure travelers aren’t carrying COVID-19, allowing authorities to end the quarantine requirement.
The key to that trial is the testing before departure. Indeed, organizations like IATA have called for rapid testing to be implemented before departure as the preferred option as it will create a “clean” environment throughout the travel process. That would be the ultimate goal.
For now the test trials are step in the right direction. Hopefully more governments and airlines catch on. It might be asking a lot but based on these preliminary results of rapid testing, governments around the world should be collectively working together with the world’s major airlines to provide a uniform system as soon as possible. Couple that with a vaccine and there's hope that the travel industry that's been so decimated throughout this pandemic, can finally get back on track.
Oct. 11, 2020
Will Canada Have Any Airlines Left Once the Pandemic is Over?
I’m pretty sure there’s not much sympathy for Canada’s two major airlines these days. Especially from those waiting for a refund for a cancelled flight due to the COVID19 Pandemic. Those are legitimate complaints and I feel for those who were hoping to get their money back. The greater question however is the financial state of the airline industry as a whole and in particular here in Canada.
Before the pandemic the world’s airlines took a bit of a hit with two crashes and the grounding of hundreds of Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Since the pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has been keeping a rolling count of the economic losses and the numbers are staggering. They estimate that the industry burned $51 billion of its cash reserves in Q2 2020. Furthermore, it’s expected that the industry will burn through $77 billion in cash during the second half of 2020.
Read more HERE
I could go on but I think you get my point. Canada’s two major airlines are not immune to those stunning losses either. Air Canada posted a second quarter loss this year of $1.6 billion. WestJet’s fate is another story since it is now privately owned by Onex. But one can assume that WestJet’s losses are similar to Air Canada’s. Which begs the question, will Canada have any airlines left once the pandemic is over?
To say our economy relies on our airlines would be a major understatement. According to the Airline Council of Canada its member airlines (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet) carry over 80 million passengers annually, employs some 141,000 Canadians and contributes about $35 billion to our country's GDP.
Some analysts point out it’s because of their economic importance that the federal government won’t allow Canada’s major airlines, or at least Air Canada, to go bankrupt. And one might assume that there would be a potential buyer waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces. Maybe so.
But you can’t ignore the crisis is real and it’s happening now, look again at the stats above. Airports Council International (ACI) and IATA have both called for a globally-consistent approach to testing international passengers as an alternative to current quarantine measures. In addition, the Airline Council of Canada joined labour leaders from Unifor, the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA), and Air Line Pilots Association Canada (ALPA Canada), in their call “for the urgent need for the federal government to bring forward sectoral support, and that the certification and adoption of accurate rapid testing regimes is critical to aviation’s recovery and the tens of thousands of jobs that are dependent on travel and tourism.”
Read more HERE
With Canada’s federal government dolling out billions of dollars hand over foot to support other industries, it’s odd that they have so far ignored those calls. Time is running out. The longer the pandemic lasts the more Canada’s airlines will continue to lose money at an insurmountable rate. Something has to give. It’s time for government to either step up or get out of the way and let the airlines get back to business.
Sept. 20, 2020
I'm Not Sure What More The Travel Industry Can Do
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with the folks from Travelport who recently did a survey with their members asking what it would take for you to travel again. Travelport wrote about the results on their website titled “10 Measures to Boost Traveler Confidence and Influence Bookings”.
Read it HERE
The results weren’t all that surprising really but what stood out to me was that the measures most respondents were looking are already being implemented. In fact all 10 measures mentioned such as enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection, social distancing, temperature checks and mandatory mask wearing are now in place in some form or another. And more recently we have seen travel providers like Air Canada Vacations, Westjet and Sunwing add COVID travel insurance to their tour packages at no extra cost. And beginning Oct. 1 Manulife will have a travel insurance package available for any travel bookings outside of those operators.
Here the interview about COVID Travel Insurance HERE
What I’m getting at is that the industry has answered the bell regarding every concern a potential traveler has when it comes to booking a vacation right now. In fact you are better protected now under the new protocols in place now than you have ever been. From the moment you get to the airport and step aboard the aircraft to the time you land and arrive at your destination hotel there are social distancing, disinfecting and mask wearing protocols in place. If you need to cancel your trip, no problem change and cancel fees have been waived with most tour operators providing a full refund or future travel credit depending on the circumstances. And if in the unlikely event that you might test positive for COVID19 while on vacation the insurance plans have you covered from medical assistance to quarantine protection.
Again, the travel industry has stepped up to do all they can to insure you have peace of mind from the moment you book your trip to when you arrive home. I’m not sure if they can anything more.
The travel industry has been decimated by the COVID19 pandemic and is doing all it can to attempt a recovery. Travelers have told them what they need to do and they responded. It’s now up to governments to do what they can to help out by removing the 14 day quarantine for people arriving into Canada and for returning Canadians coming back home.
Sept. 6, 2020
Oh How We Were So Wrong
I remember Travel Journalist Peter Greenberg’s words so clearly when I had him as a guest on the Informed Traveler. Back in mid-March I was chatting with Peter about the impact the COVID19 Pandemic was having on the travel industry as cruise lines, tour operators and airlines were beginning to slow or cease operations as more and more borders closed and travel restrictions were put in place. As we closed out the interview he boldly predicted, “In the next 2 months we’ll be back don’t worry”.
Listen to the full interview Here
For some reason those words stuck with me. I agreed with him. I recall stating myself numerous times how resilient the travel industry is and how it will bounce back. And here we are 6 months later and travel industry is not back, not by a long shot and for many the worry started long ago. Sure, you can travel if you want. There are many countries that have re-opened their borders to tourists provided you follow the protocols and pass the restrictions involved. And if you’re prepared to quarantine for 14 days upon returning home to Canada.
The numbers are staggering if not unimaginable. According to the latest forecast from the World Travel and Tourism Council nearly 200 million travel industry jobs could vanish as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Economic models show that in addition to the loss of those jobs, up to $5.5 trillion could be erased from the global GDP. The group's outlook has worsened considerably since April, when it forecast the loss of 100 million jobs and the loss of $2.7 trillion to the global GDP.
But as time goes by its appearing more and more to me that the measures governments have taken to slow the spread of the virus are having a worse effect than the disease itself. Again, according to WTTC, "the confusing patchwork of bans, quarantines and uncoordinated international testing and tracing measures, have deterred many people from travelling at all with the peak summer 2020 travel season all but being wiped out. While some people are less eager to travel because of fears over the virus, others who would be willing to venture — with precautions such as masks — are delaying trips because of the methods being used to control the pandemic such as quarantines and blanket travel restrictions."
To help mitigate the effects many travel suppliers are offering flexible cancellation policies to give customers added incentive to book now for the future as well as provide much-needed peace of mind that they aren't putting their health or money at risk. Those policies help but as the departure dates edge closer who would follow through with their travel plans knowing that they would have to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival back home to Canada?
More than anything it`s that 14 day quarantine policy Canada has in place that has halted the idea of traveling anywhere other than inside our own borders. IATA’s (International Air Transport Association) Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac states it eloquently in a recent briefing to the media by saying “Quarantine measures, in particular, are keeping aviation, travel and tourism effectively in lockdown. But we believe that there are alternative measures that will keep people safe and enable global connectivity”. They suggest replacing government-imposed quarantines with a layered approach that includes testing, temperature checks, cleaning and mask-wearing can replace quarantines.
Read more Here
To that note Air Canada is currently studying incoming international travel to Toronto’s Pearson Airport in a push for the government to lift travel restrictions such as its 14-day quarantine. In the voluntary study passengers will provide samples to be analyzed for COVID-19 using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests upon arrival and in two follow-ups to establish how many travelers arrive infected. Here’s hoping something good comes from the study.
Again, here’s Alexandre de Juniac “We see governments replacing border closures with quarantine for air travelers. Neither will restore travel or jobs. Worse, governments are changing the entry requirements with little notice to travelers or coordination with their trading partners. This uncertainty destroys demand. It’s time for governments to work together to implement measures that will enable economic and social life to resume, while controlling the spread of the virus.”
Those in the travel industry are a resilient bunch. But governments need to give them the tools to implement a speedier recovery.
August 16, 2020
Hello and welcome to the Informed Traveler… that’s the opening line use in my travel radio show and podcast so I thought I’d use that same line to introduce you to my new blog. I get asked from time to time for my opinion on some of the things going on in the travel industry and I thought this would be a good avenue to address them.
To begin let start by explaining the title, “Hikers Are Liars and Other Things I’ve Learned Hosting a Travel Show”. Obviously it’s meant in jest, sort of. So please don’t be offended if you’re an avid hiker. Because if you’re an avid hiker or even a novice or beginner like myself you’ve probably said one or more of these lines (or something similar) to your less experienced hiking mates… “It’s not far now” or “we’re almost done” or “it’ll level off soon” or “it’s mostly downhill from here”. You get the picture. The notion of hikers are liars came to me last September while doing a lengthy hike known as the Iceline, Little Yoho Valley and Yoho Valley Trail Loop in Yoho National Park.
It’s not a hike for the faint of heart, is rated difficult and not recommended for someone looking for a casual 1 hour stroll through a national park. Which is kind of my idea of a hike. However, it offers some of the most spectacular scenery you will see in the world.
To get a visual of what I’m talking about check out my One Minute Travel Bit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=-Vkmuhxllxw&feature=emb_title
Remember I am a novice at hiking and this one is 13.5 miles and covers an elevation of over 3400 feet. It took almost 7 hours to complete and to say I was completely exhausted afterwards would be an understatement. My guide, the very knowledgeable and gracious Laura Crombeen, owner of Self Propelled Adventures was excellent. I highly recommend her to guide you through some of the best hikes you’ll ever experience.
During my journey up and down the mountainside I did stop for periodic moments to rest my burning leg muscles and to take a few photos. (Which brings me to another point about serious hikers, they rarely stop to enjoy the scenery). Anyway I found myself a number of times falling behind to which Laura and the rest of our small hiking group would just continue onward only to look back occasionally to see how I was managing and respond with the encouraging words “it’s only uphill for a bit more and then it levels off”. This was later followed by more encouraging words like, “you’re doing great, we’ll be stopping for lunch soon” sprinkled by a few “it’s only a bit further” and “we’re almost there”. “There” meaning the spot where the group would finally take a pause for a brief moment. By the way, that’s one of the great things about being on a hike guided by Laura. She’s very patient and WILL take a break here and there to teach you about the area and the fauna that surrounds you.
It didn’t take long for me to realize however that the encouraging words albeit inspiring, were fast becoming hollow in their accuracy. “Soon” wasn’t coming soon enough, “a bit further” was a lot further and their idea of “leveling off” and mine were not the same.
So I concluded with my ever increasing heavy breathing, which was also consuming my thoughts more and more that hikers are liars. They mean well but miss the mark in sincerity. What’s worse that is as I have grown in my hiking experience I have caught myself saying those very same phrases to my 2 children who no doubt have their own thoughts about the validity of my encouragement.
It appears that I have become one of them.