HIKERS ARE LIARS AND OTHER THINGS I'VE LEARNED HOSTING A TRAVEL SHOW

 

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January 24, 2021

Would You Fly on the Boeing 737MAX??

 

My simple answer to that question would be yes I would. I love flying. But I also get that many people don’t and some are just plain afraid to do so. And I understand that because unfortunately, history has shown us that in the aviation world there has to be a disaster before changes occur. I could run through a list of past crashes but I think you get the idea. Indeed the two tragedies involving the Boeing 737MAX is evidence enough to make anyone think twice about getting on an airplane.

 

Still for me, I wouldn’t hesitate to climb back into a 737MAX. I am always amazed at the engineering marvel of a modern passenger jet. The simple fact that we can take a couple of hundred people put them in a about hundred thousand pounds of steel and get them halfway across the world in a few hours is amazing. I think when we fly we sometimes just take all of that for granted. And maybe that’s a good thing because it’s mind-numbing trying to figure out how it all works. They used to call it the miracle of flight. It still is.

 

I took a trip to the Boeing plant a number of years ago in Washington. Again the word amazing is being over used here but what a sight to see. At the time the plant in Washington specialized in making the 747 and they were just in the process of testing the Dreamliner and the 777. They actually have a fully functioning airport located at their plant site. To watch how the planes are painstakingly assembled is an incredible sight and a tour I would highly recommend.

 

If you fly a lot (which I used to) you get to know the various aircraft. At least you do if you’re into that thing. And you get to have your favorites to fly in. I always enjoyed the Boeing aircraft.

 

I assume that pilots are the same, they enjoy flying certain aircraft over others. I got an example of this in Detroit once when flying from Detroit to Toronto. It’s a very short flight as you can imagine. And while I was waiting to board, the two pilots who were about to take over from the previous crew were standing by the window watching the aircraft taxi to the gate where we were to board. It was coming from Toronto and I (we – me and the two pilots and the rest of the passengers) were on the return flight.

 

Funny how their comments, which I overheard, still stick with me to this day. Something to the effect of “oh no, we’re not flying that Dash are we?” You could hear the disappointment in their tone. The flight was thankfully a short one on that noisy, cramped,

uncomfortable Dash 8.

 

I have since flown a few times on a Dash 8 and it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Ever!

Given the choice I would never fly on one.

 

Bottom line - I love flying and can't wait to do it again.

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January 10, 2021

Two Questions for Minister Garneau

 

Let's begin by saying that I don't necessarily disagree with the Canadian Government's recent announcement that beginning Jan. 7 air travelers entering Canada must provide a negative COVID test. There are many countries that have similar guidelines and restrictions in place. My problem with the new rules is how they was implemented. The new regulations come across as a typical government kneejerk reaction to show the public that they are "doing something" rather than thoughtfully looking at the consequences of their actions. 

 

So, my first question to Minister Garneau would be, why the rush? If there is a need for such sudden restrictions, you still could have allowed those who have sinned so grievously by departing from our borders to at least have a grace period. You could have allowed them to return home without forcing them to scramble to find a proper facility in a foreign land that can administer a COVID test to meet your satisfaction. You could have given them time to come home before the restrictions are implemented so they don't have to bear the added cost of getting such a test. Some of which run as high a $500US a person. You could have consulted further with the airlines to see when a reasonable timeline would have been, since they're the ones left in charge to administer the new rules. But you chose not to.

 

My second question is if someone has a negative COVID test result as now required, why the need to still quarantine for 14 days? If the goal is to have an extra level of security you could have just closed the borders all together, way back in March and made an exception for commercial traffic. You could just change Canada's travel advisory to "Avoid all travel" instead of the current "Avoid non-essential travel". Which by the way, says the following: "It is up to you to decide what “non-essential travel” means, based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with a country, territory or region, and other factors." That way you could have avoided any confusion over what's essential. Confusion that has even hit the ranks of politicians and their staff at all levels of government. 

 

Perhaps it's because you really don't have any confidence in the tests themselves. I'm not sure. I'm hoping that's not the case because then we've got serious problems. But if you do have confidence that a negative test is the answer, you'd drop the required 14-day quarantine. It's overkill in an industry that'll soon be breathing its last breath. But you don't really seem concerned about that.

 

For once it would be nice to see a government official AKA a Minister in Charge, make a decision that shows they actually know what they're doing. Instead, it's another example of a half thought out rule concocted without thinking through what the ramifications would be. Handed over to the airlines with a pat on the head as if to say, "here's the new rules, now be a good lad and go and administer them for us. Oh yeah, if things go wrong it's your fault". A nice way to pass the buck Minister.

 

I know you're very busy these days so I'm not really expecting an answer to these questions Minister.  Here's hoping for some common sense for the next decision coming down the pipe.

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December 31, 2020

 

A POSITIVE SPIN ON 2020

 

I'm a big Monty Python fan and there's a favorite seen of mine at the end of the movie "Life Of Brian" where the Mesiah (or Brian) is left to die on a cross only to be serenaded by the rest of the group caught in the same predicament by the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". If you've seen it, you know what I'm referring to. If not have a look at the clip HERE.

 

Needless to say, 2020 has been a monstrously tough year for many, particularly those in the hospitality and travel industry. Instead of the usual look back at the highlights of 2020 which by its nature would reflect many of the negative aspects of it, I'm choosing to look at the positive. I'm choosing to look at the bright side of 2020.

 

First of all, the simple fact that I'm writing this blog and you're reading it is a positive in itself. It means we lived to see out 2020 and have 2021 to look forward. Worldwide there were over 1.8 million people who did't get the opportunity to ring in the New Year due to the COVID outbreak.   

 

Secondly, before the outbreak began, I got the opportunity to take my family and my show on the road to Mazatlán. It was a fabulous time during one of the coldest weeks in January back home. You can hear the podcast from Mazatlan HERE.  

View our One Minute Travel Bit video on Mazatlán HERE

Third, once the pandemic hit and the shutting of borders and closing of businesses, schools, etc. occurred during the spring, I got to be home with my children every day, have lunch with them, spend way more time with them and enjoy things together as family. When things do get back to normal (whatever normal is) I'm not sure if that will occur again. especially as they get older.

 

Fourth, as the summer went by, we (as a family) decided to do a day trips together and plan short hikes every other weekend. We explored numerous hiking trails within an hour or two drive and enjoyed the outdoors like never before. I saw and experienced places that were always put in that "we should do this" category. Well, we finally did it, we spent more time outdoors and it was great.

 

Fifth, once the COVID protocols were set in place and hotels and restaurants re-opened with limited capacity we took our show on the road to Jasper in October during the Dark Sky Festival. It was wonderful to enjoy the outdoors and I know it sounds silly, but my wife has always wanted to see a moose in the wild. We saw 5, up close. Plus, a huge grizzly on the side of the highway on the way to Jasper. It was amazing and definitely one of the biggest highlights of the year. Again, you can listen to the podcast HERE.  

And see our One Minute Travel Bit video on Jasper on HERE

 

And finally, most of all, this year I still had the pleasure of putting together a weekly travel show. And I want to say a heartfelt thank you to you and our many dedicated listeners who tune into the Informed Traveler each week, or just occasionally. Thank you to the those who listen to our podcast and take the time to read this blog. 

 

Here's saying farewell to 2020, enjoying the bright side of life and wishing you all the best in 2021. 

 

Happy New Year.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.  

 

See https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/british-columbia/iceline-little-yoho-valley-and-yoho-valley-trail-loop?u=i 

 

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. 

 

See https://www.selfpropelledadventures.ca/ 

 

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.  

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