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Tourism During COVID-19: March 2021


Resources // Report // Tourism During COVID-19: March 2021

Key Takeaways Snapshot

Health Impact

COVID-19 remains a serious global health threat and the situation continues to evolve, including the emergence of new variants in over 30 countries. Despite new variants, worldwide cases are declining. However, the risk to Canadians is still considered high. The border closure has been extended to March 21, marking a full year of suspended land movement. Travel restrictions continue to limit travel to Canada, with most foreign nationals unable to enter the country even if they have a valid visitor visa or electronic travel authorization (eTA). As of February 21, Canadians returning to Canada must meet new testing and quarantine requirements including mandatory quarantine at a government-approved hotel. Vaccine rollout continues world-wide, with the COVAX initiative officially underway and the AstraZeneca vaccine now approved in Canada.

Economic Impact

2020 was an incredibly difficult year for the Travel and Tourism industry, with the coronavirus outbreak reaching all countries and causing unprecedented levels of restrictive measures. The second spike in coronavirus cases in Europe and North America subdued momentum at the end of 2020 and into 2021. While governments have implemented a range of fiscal packages and policies to protect jobs and incomes during the pandemic, unemployment rates have increased and incomes have fallen. These pressures are likely to escalate as government support is gradually eased, and while there is clear and significant pent-up demand, citizens will become more considered with their travel decisions.

Focus Case Study 1:

IATA Travel Pass Update

The IATA Travel Pass is a mobile application under development allowing travelers to store and manage certifications for COVID-19 tests or vaccines. The app should be available in iOS and Android stores by March 2021. The information provided through the IATA Travel Pass can be used by governments requiring testing or vaccination proofs as a condition of international travel during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. A critical aspect is a fact that the information supplied is verified. It is a secure means to manage health requirements, much more efficient than paper processes. With this app, IATA also aims to provide governments with the confidence to reopen borders without imposing quarantines on incoming travelers.

Focus Case Study 2:

Weaving the Recovery – Indigenous Women in Tourism

COVID-19 has simultaneously reduced revenues and increased the housework burden for Indigenous women while exposing their dire lack of access to essential services. Selected as one of the ten most promising projects for the Paris Peace Forum 2020, the “Leaving No One Behind: Empowering Indigenous Women in the Post-COVID 19 Tourism Recovery” initiative aims to empower Indigenous women with the skills to compete effectively in the market, and profit from tourism’s social, cultural and economic benefits.

Focus Case Study 3:

Tech Transformations in the Tourism Industry

Technology is a crucial part of the tourism and travel industry, helping businesses with day-to-day operations, while also improving the customer experience. For this reason, hotels, airlines, restaurants and other companies must keep up with the latest technology trends within the travel industry. This is especially vital in the era of COVID, with customer expectations shifting.

Canadian Resident Sentiment Toward Tourism

With ongoing COVID cases and new variants, Canadians continue to feel hesitant towards travel. As the distribution of the vaccine now underway, tourism recovery is expected to slowly return along with lifted public health measures and a broader economic rebound. The experience of the global pandemic has devastated the international travel market with no signs of recovery at any significant rate. Tourism recovery at the provincial level will continue to depend on how well COVID-19 is contained locally, vaccine distribution and efficacy, and how reliant each province is on international visitors.

Traveller Behaviours

When travel advisories are likely to be lifted or modified remains unclear. But, while the advisory remains in effect, there are still options for Canadians who choose to travel. It is more important now than ever to ensure that travellers understand their travel health insurance coverage and have the necessary coverage, as well as the mandated quarantine measures. International travel is a possibility this summer and the success of vaccine rollouts may allow for short-haul travel to resume between many economically developed nations. Although barriers are present, the rollout of a digital COVID Travel Pass will be beneficial to the global travel sector and will increase the likelihood of a meaningful start to recovery in 2021.


Deep airline industry losses will continue into 2021, even though performance is expected to improve. Aggressive cost-cutting is expected to combine with increased demand, due to the reopening of borders and the widespread availability of a vaccine. Testing remains the immediate solution to meaningfully re-open air travel, and with 46 million jobs at risk in the travel and tourism sector alone because of air travel, fast, accurate, and scalable testing must become government priorities to give airlines the means to safely do business.

Accommodation & Events

The pandemic has had a huge impact on the accommodation and events sector, and while forecasts show some revival later this year, it is clear that the economy and business confidence is going to take time to recover.


Globally, cruising will most likely make its long-awaited comeback early in 2021, with an overwhelming response for trial sailings and research showing that travellers are anxious to get back out on the water. When cruising returns, the experience will be different as extensive new health and safety protocols will need to be met. However, in Canada, the ban on cruise ships has been extended until 2022. By closing Canadian ports to passenger vessels for another year, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians are at risk from more job losses and further economic devastation.

Major Tour Operators

Tours are going to look different when travel restarts in earnest. Not only have tour operators made changes for safety circumstances, but travellers will also have increased options and the comfort of navigating a post-pandemic world with the help of guides and experts. Travellers are also looking to travel with a purpose and are looking for tours and destinations that allow them to get off the beaten path and discover new places – backed by flexible cancellation policies and industry certifications in health and safety.

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