Key Takeaway Snapshot
Canada’s borders will be closed until at least January 21, 2021. Vaccines, along with promising new strategies that involve testing visitors for COVID-19 prior to departure or upon arrival on flights and international border crossings are anticipated to have a positive influence on border re-openings and may significantly limit mandated traveller quarantine periods. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, Canadian airports can look to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, the first airport in the world to earn “the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating” from Skytrax, an international airport industry ratings body. Although Skytrax is best known for its annual rankings of the world’s best airports, the global pandemic prompted the organization to come up with a designation for airport hygiene.
Tourism plays a significant role as one of the world’s most important economic sectors, providing livelihoods to hundreds of millions of people while boosting economies and enabling countries to thrive. It is imperative that international governments work together to harmonize global policy, lift restrictions and rebuild the tourism sector for it to regain its position as a provider of decent jobs, stable incomes and for the protection of cultural and natural heritage. In the meantime, tourism businesses need to take advantage of all government support available to survive the second wave and prepare for 2021.
Now, more than ever, effective collaboration is essential. Developing innovative experiences that support the needs of tour operators, governments and public health is a necessary – and promising – adaptation to the new normal of 2020. New working relationships with public health authorities can be forged to build strong foundations that will protect and support the tourism sector in the immediate and longer-term future as the pandemic continues to unfold.
Anantara Veli Resort, Maldives
Traditional destination marketing models are being replaced by creative offerings that capitalize on travel restrictions. Visionary destinations have the opportunity to emerge as industry-leaders targeting new types of travellers and shaping the future of tourism. Early adaptors can differentiate themselves by creating unlimited, remote working and ultimate social distancing packages with little to no market competition.
Canadian Resident Sentiment Toward Tourism
Despite rising COVID cases, most Canadians still feel reasonably safe to travel close to home and within their own provinces with the exception of those in BC and Ontario. Local travel remains the strongest opportunity for the Canadian tourism industry. Canada’s internal travel restrictions are likely contributing factors to perceptions of safety abroad. As community-based tourism model, targeting local and some close domestic visitors will support the highest levels of traveller confidence, local tour operators can focus on generating business through the “staycation model” and increase revenues by offering products and experiences tailored to each season.
Younger populations are the demographic most likely to engage in near-future, longer-term travel, and therefore may be a key audience to focus on in 2021. As Canadians are not travelling internationally, building back confidence in inter-provincial travel will continue to be paramount in the coming months. Provinces can monitor the success of the ArriveCAN program and potentially develop similar inter-provincial programs to increase positive sentiment towards domestic travel.
As countries around the world work to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and restart their economies and tourism, they all face the challenge of how to reopen their borders and allow international travel to resume while protecting their populations’ health. The current patchwork of policies and ever-changing border entry and health screening requirements has made international travel more complex, leaving airlines and border agencies uncertain about the validity of test results and passengers unsure of what is being asked of them. Emerging programs like the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) CommonPass Program or China’s QR code-based global travel system represent the opportunity to develop and launch standard global models to enable people to securely document and present their COVID-19 status (either as test results or an eventual vaccination status) to facilitate international travel and border crossing while keeping their health information private. Recognizing that countries will make sovereign decisions on border entry and health screening requirements, including whether or not to require tests or what type of test to require, these programs can serve as a neutral platform which creates the interoperability needed for the various ‘travel bubbles’ to connect and for countries to trust one another’s data by leveraging global standards.
Accommodation & Events
Uncertainty remains in all markets. However, the opportunity for destinations to connect with planners remains, as researching new destinations and being up to date on safety and restrictions is important to all planners in all markets. Partnerships between destinations and organizations have room to grow. Venue business models can be adapted as the ratio of rooms to meeting space is no longer feasible, and hybrid packages offering technology and production elements inspire new ways to host events.
In anticipation of the cruise ban being lifted, most cruise lines, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Bahamas Paradise Cruise, and Virgin Voyage had already been working diligently to meet the new protocols set in place. Although cruising was shut down in the United States, some European cruise lines still continued to sail. The success of AIDA, Costa, Hurtigruten, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, MSC, and TUI ships which all followed the guidance of the European Union’s Healthy Gateways panel have proved that cruising can be done safely and can be seen as thought leaders in the post-COVID cruise industry.
Major Tour Operators
Most Tour Operators plan to resume operations in 2021 – alongside COVID-19 – even if that means lower numbers or lower margins which is an encouraging sign for the resumption of business. Tour Operators are well-positioned to market professional services that help keep travellers safe and provide advocacy to help navigate COVID-related problems and challenges.