Cheryl Coleman, The Travel Agent Next Door
Kathryn Comeau-Wong of Personal Travel Management
Norman Feferman, New Wave Travel
Marcia Proctor, The Travel Agent Next Door
Lindsay Schile, CM Travel
After a terrible 2020, many travel advisors and tour operators were optimistic for a new beginning and a better 2021. There were reports of pent-up demand and a renewed vigour to travel with the start of the worldwide vaccine rollout.
Those hopes were dashed with the government’s announcement Friday that Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing agreed to suspend all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico from 31JAN through 30APR.
In addition to this staggering news, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced even stricter travel measures aimed at further discouraging travel.
Open Jaw reached out to travel advisors to hear what the announcement means for their businesses.
“I am back to ground zero. No bookings, no commissions, no end date. It is so discouraging, but I am not a quitter (30 years in the industry) and I can financially wait it out. It puts so many people’s livelihoods in jeopardy. It is going to take a long time for us in this industry to recover and, of course, many won’t,” The Travel Agent Next Door’s (TTAND) Cheryl Coleman told Open Jaw.
Kathryn Comeau-Wong of Personal Travel Management, said: “Trudeau gave us TWO DAYS to scramble and find our clients, TWO DAYS to wait on airlines/suppliers to adjust their terms so we could adjust the flights and TWO DAYS for clients to scramble at destination to try and get a PCR test that would produce results in enough time before the Canadian flights were all to cancel. What kind of notice is that?
“There are guaranteed to be clients stranded and forced to purchase new tickets on American carriers to try and get home. And if the client’s end destination isn’t one of the four open international airports, then there is even more of an expense for them to get all the way home. The travel industry has been screaming to be heard in all of this and we fall on deaf ears once again.”
The government’s move to suspend flights is spurring a new wave of booking cancellations.
“I have been on the phone all morning with my March and April bookings to discuss their options. Just another wave of the rollercoaster!” Comeau-Wong said.
Travel agents who don’t currently have any clients in-destination see the cancellations through May come as a disheartening blow for the future.
“Our two biggest travel weeks are Christmas/New Year and March break. Now March break is lost. We are disturbed by the news. My clients are frustrated. They desperately need to get away even for a short break from winter. Mexico and the Caribbean provided that one or two week all-inclusive where they could refresh and spend fun time with family and friends. That is now off the table,” said Norman Feferman, with New Wave Travel.
Although Marcia Proctor, advisor with TTAND, and her team of two associate agents did not have vacations booked for clients before the end of April, she says the news adds to “a feeling of defeat.”
“The bottom line is that the impact on our personal agency business is not great: we had more or less resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have no sales in the immediate future and are focused on the end of the year and into 2022 right now,” she told Open Jaw.
“Another bubble of hope for a quick recovery for travel has burst. I just have to tell myself that anything that brings an end to the pandemic is worth doing, but I believe making sure everyone is vaccinated as quickly as possible should be a higher priority for the government than increased international travel restrictions.”
CM Travel’s Lindsay Schile says her agency has been proactively shifting bookings out of the first half of 2021 to later dates for some time now. Still, she tells Open Jaw the announcement “is a harsh reminder that so many agencies and agents will not survive this latest round of restrictions and it is heartbreaking. We have all been fighting so hard for our livelihoods for the past year and we have to fight yet again to survive.”
Anna Kroupina Journalist
Anna is OJ’s newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she’s new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.