Islanders book travel as Canada lifts travel advisory related to COVID-19

Islanders book travel as Canada lifts travel advisory related to COVID-19
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While it’s not quite back to normal at the Victoria International Airport, things are looking up.

Rod Hunchak, Director of Business Development at YYJ, said passenger loads are up.

“We’re at about 65% of pre-pandemic levels for the month of August. That’s held steady through September.  It looks the same for October as well,” said Hunchak.

Just before the great winter escape — and as Islanders reunite for the holidays — Ottawa quietly lifted the non-essential travel advisory for Canadians.

Now country-specific advisories will apply, however, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said there is still reason to be cautious.

“The pandemic is very much alive. There are definitely risks involved in travel,” Tam notes.

While flying to a warm destination such as Mexico is tempting, the vaccination rate there is 41 per cent — far below BC’s double vaccination rate of 84 per cent for adults.

At Departures Travel, owner Cathy Scott said business is steady.

“The most calls that we’re getting are for places like Hawaii and Europe,” said Scott.

After 20 months, Islanders are flocking to travel agencies to book their flights, if they can.

“We’re pretty busy,” Scott said. “Yeah, and the reality of it is that so many travel agencies have gone out of business in Canada that those of us that are left are pretty busy. And it’s only, it’s only just beginning. So it’s gonna be busy for everybody.”

Next week, anyone travelling on planes and trains must not only be double vaccinated but testing is required before entry to many countries.

Travellers can request a COVID-19 test at the ConnectUs Global clinic located at Victoria International Airport for departing and incoming passengers.

Norine Anderson, the company’s director of contract compliance, said from the moment they opened the doors in August, they were swamped.

“It’s extremely busy. extremely busy. We could be running tests 24 hours a day,” said Anderson

Costs depend on how quickly someone wants their results, from $175 for 48 hours, to $375 for the same day.

“For travellers it’s very stressful,” Anderson said. “Finding a place to research the requirements of where they are going, and certainly, elderly people wanting to travel, it’s very stressful for them.”

And the advice from the expert Scott?

“Book it. Because it’s everybody’s gonna have the same feeling.”

And pent-up demand to travel will quickly drive up prices well into 2022 and beyond.

READ: B.C. residents will use two vaccine passports following federal announcement

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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