Mid-day at the Victoria Airport, and the departure area is a ghost town, but travel here is about to change.
The industry is expecting a busy March, and full airports.
Geoff Dickson, president and CEO of Victoria Airport Authority, said by summer he expects the passenger volumes to continue building.
“I think it’s going to come back to the sort of pre-pandemic levels sooner than we all think,” Dickson said.
January 2022 passengers levels at the Victoria Airport increased 210 per cent over 2021, when just 18,000 people passed through the terminal.
But Dickson said the industry is expecting a busy spring and summer.
“We’re pretty optimistic by the summer, we’re going to be close to 80 or 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels,” Dickson said.
With COVID cases dropping and spring break around the corner, many are planning to travel for the first time in years.
At Far and Away Adventures travel agency in Sidney, the phones are busy.
Normand Schafer, travel agent with the agency said bookings are up considerably.
“I would say in the last two years, the last month has probably even the busiest that we’ve seen. It’s still not the same as pre-pandemic levels. But we’re very pleasantly surprised,” Schafer said.
Schafer said pent-up demand means people are looking to book last minute, and prices will continue to go up as demand increases.
“It is moving the prices up certainly,” he said. “What is also very challenging right now is we’re actually seeing such a large number of inquiries. That we’re adding to prioritize our time to to be able to assist people.”
Many travel agencies permanently closed during the pandemic, and the airlines lost thousands of staff, which means people can expect to spend hours on the phone booking flights.
And Vancouver Island is a desirable destination too, according to Bill Lewis, Chair of the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria.
“Hotels are running a much better occupancy than we had been the last couple of years,” Lewis said. “So it’s been a lot of ups and downs. So there certainly has been some recovery.”
For the first time since the pandemic closed hotels, Lewis said conventions are booked.
“Those would be the first substantial conventions that have occurred in Victoria than in 25-26 months.”
Schafer said Vancouver Islanders have a favourite hot spot.
“We’re seeing a lot of people going to Hawaii, they feel very comfortable,” Schafer said.
If you can get a flight.
Many from the Island are sold out for March.
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