Travel, tourism industries hardest hit in the wake of coronavirus pandemic

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Biz/Tech

The travel and tourism sector remain greatly affected by border closures and travel restrictions because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

A survey conducted in April by the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) found 75 per cent of the industry will not survive if financial aid programs are not extended until the end of 2021 or until the travel restrictions are lifted.

Christine Hillis, the owner of McTavish Travel in Oakville, Ont., said the pandemic has made a huge impact on her business as there is not much movement in the travel department.

She said her business is impacted 100 per cent by limiting movement to essential travel only. Further, mandatory hotel quarantines with the average cost of $1,800 is a significant deterrent for people to travel even if essential.

“Our bookings have decreased by 95 per cent since March 2020,” Hillis said. “The business has been impacted volume wise which is significant for McTavish. We would normally be $26 million in sales, we’re not even reaching about a half a million right now.”

Travel agent Deborah Goldberg, with Click The Mouse Travel Agency, an authorized Disney Vacation Planner, on Carroll Street in Toronto, said Covid-19 has completely decimated the travel industry.

She said her business has collapsed and she has not earned any income since March 2020 and as a single mother with two daughters, it is getting hard for her to provide for the family.

“I am hopeful that 2022 will be better and travel will resume meanwhile I continue to stay connected to my client base,” Goldberg said.

Shawna Weatherill, a franchise owner of Expedia Cruises in Waterdown, Ont., agrees the travel industry is one of the most affected sectors since the start of the pandemic and the travel business has experienced a decline by 80 to 90 per cent.

Shawna Weatherill, a franchise owner of Expedia Cruise Ship Centres, is seen waiting at her cruise ship for  travelers on an empty cruise ship as very people people are planning vacations due to the fear of catching the virus.
Shawna Weatherill, a franchise owner of Expedia Cruise Ship Centres, is seen waiting at her cruise ship for travelers on an empty cruise ship as very people people are planning vacations due to the fear of catching the virus. Photo credit: Shawna Weatherill & Expedia cruise ship centers

“I feel the government has placed fear in the public regarding the travel and blames the travel industry for the spread and ignored some other obvious causes of the spread,” Weatherill said.

“It is unfortunate but we are a strong industry and will survive,” she said.

Debbie Manuel, a travel consultant and a vacation specialist with Travel Only with Debbie Manuel on West Street in Brantford, Ont., said border restrictions, complete country closures, and no access to flights to southern destinations affected local tourism, travel tour suppliers, individual travel agents and related companies.

“It has affected me as my income grinded to a halt,” she said.

“Most companies have recalled the commission (earned by) travel agents when a refund is done so I no longer have the income coming in,” Manuel said. “I am working without pay to process cancellations, and also have to repay some of my commissions.”

Sheila Aue, a certified travel consultant with Travel Professionals International in Oakville, said the border closures and governments advisories discouraging non-essential travel are among the reasons the industry has been affected so badly.

She said her business lost 100 per cent of her business.

Aue said the government is offering support, such as loans and grants, but adds not all sectors within the industry qualifies. The financial aid isn’t available for most of the independent travel advisors, she said.

Some travel insurance companies, like Australia’s Cover-More, introduced pandemic insurance policies for travelers, which offers COVID-19 coverage for travel only.

It does not apply in the event of sudden border closures or overseas travel bans.

A few airlines like Qantas and Emirates have also built in COVID-19 medical coverage into its fare.

Julie Sanfacon, a certified travel counsellor with Centre Holidays Inc. in Mississauga, Ont., said the pandemic has had more impact on the travel industry than 9/11. Her business has come to a standstill.

She said she made a few bookings for essential travels to Australia because some insurance companies started to offer the policies to cover COVID-19.

“It did help my business a little bit in booking for essential travels, but it was short-lived as there were issues around prices for COVID-19 medical coverage,” Sanfacon said.

Flemming Friisdahl, the director of Toronto’s The Travel Agent Next Door, a host agency for independent travel agents, said everybody’s business is down significantly by around 95 per cent because of the pandemic.

But he remains optimistic the industry will return to normal.

“Travel will recover, and we will turn it around and get back to normal in another seven months to a year until we get vaccinated,” Friisdahl said. “Once we all get vaccinated the government will lift travel and border restrictions and we will get back there.”