Inching Towards Reopening Domestic Travel

Maple leafIt’s no opening of the floodgates, but signs are there that Canadians may start to move again this summer, at least domestically.

As the pace of vaccination programs picks up across the country, airlines, provinces and tour operators are ramping up activities to welcome travellers in the coming months.

Anticipating growing demand this summer, Canada’s airlines and airports are adding service in strategic areas.

P.E.I. announced a tourism action plan for 2021, which includes a $1 million investment to restore air travel service to Charlottetown, which now has only one AC flight operating daily to and from Montreal.

The province’s Minister of Tourism Matthew MacKay expressed optimism for the 2021 season, saying it’ll be a better year than 2020.

There’s more upbeat news in other regions, too.

Regina’s airport recently landed a deal with AC to add a direct flight to YUL starting on 26JUN. The return flight from Montreal will pass through Saskatoon.

“We really needed some good news, not just for the airport, but for the community,” Regina Airport Authority CEO James Bogusz told the Regina Leader-Post.

Earlier this month, Sunwing launched its domestic summer program for the 16th consecutive year, with flights starting in MAY and running weekly until the beginning of SEP.

Tourism bodies, including Destination Canada, anticipate pent-up demand and are beginning to encourage cross-Canada leisure travel.

Canada’s Atlantic provinces, for example, are preparing to bring back the “Atlantic bubble” on 19APR. The bubble, which permits travel between Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island without quarantine, previously “burst” in NOV.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said Wednesday he’s hopeful the region’s borders could also be opened to the rest of Canada by Canada Day. He added the provinces are looking for federal direction on vaccination cards, which could be used as a requirement of entry – something Ottawa has discussed for international, but not domestic, travel.

Practice Safe Travel

The eagerness among the travel and tourism communities is tempered by experts who urge caution and a need to define conditions for safe domestic travel.

“Someone with one dose from Quebec should really behave the same as someone with one dose from B.C. We really need some standardization on what’s appropriate while we’re in this bizarre interim period,” Isaac Bogoch, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Toronto, told the Globe and Mail.

“We need federal guidance on what’s appropriate for travel. We should all be reading from the same playbook.”

At this time, Health Canada recommends against all non-essential travel internationally, but is silent on inter-provincial travel, saying it’s up to each province and territory to set their own rules for entry.

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