Manitobans are starting to book getaways again after the pandemic grounded their travel plans.
With so many people booking trips, some travel companies are saying that if you haven’t already booked, you may be paying a premium.
Over the past few weeks, Michael Kroeker, president and owner of Bonaventure Travel, has seen a steady and significant increase in the number of people looking to book a warm weather getaway.
“People are ready to get out of here,” he said. “Leisure travel takes a significant toll on you, especially with the winter we’ve had.”
He said if Manitobans hadn’t already booked their spring break trip, they might be out of luck.
“Especially any reservations in southern destinations, there’s hardly anything left,” he said. “Be prepared to pay a premium because the space that is left, you pay top dollar.”
Daryl Silver, chairman of Continental Travel Group, said travel bookings plummeted late last year when the Omicron wave hit, but have been rising since early February.
“Every day there is an increase in activity and (we see) people traveling for various reasons, but people are ready to go again,” he said.
Silver attributes the steady rise to relaxed federal travel restrictions.
READ MORE: Industry demands end to COVID-19 travel testing as eased restrictions take effect
Although travel is picking up, Silver said Canada still lags behind other countries. He said travel bookings in Canada were around 50-60% of what they were before the pandemic, while other agencies in Europe, South America and the United States were between 70 and 80. %.
“I’ve been in the travel business for a long time and I’ve had a lot of ups and downs,” he said.
“I think it always comes back. The only question is how long does it take to come back. Sometimes it’s a matter of weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years.”
Rapid testing is still a requirement for foreign visitors and Canadians wishing to avoid a 10-day quarantine upon returning to Canada. Silver said that would be the last hurdle.
“I think once that goes away we’ll see another big spike and be almost back to normal,” he said.
TRAFFIC RESUMES AT WINNIPEG AIRPORT AFTER A DIFFICULT JANUARY
At the Winnipeg International Airport, things have also improved.
“January was a tougher month, but we’re seeing promise for the summer, and we’re starting to see people moving again. People want to travel,” said Tyler MacAfee, vice president of communications and government relations. at the Winnipeg Airports Authority.
By the end of 2021, MacAfee said the airport was about 50% of its pre-pandemic travel. He thinks it will be some time before the airport returns to where it was before COVID-19 hit.
“We wait a few years for this,” he said.
MacAfee said that even though restrictions are lifted in Manitoba, proof of vaccination is still required for Canadians boarding domestic or international flights or trains.
More details on Canada’s travel restrictions can be found online.
TRAVEL INSURANCE AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF TRAVEL PLANS
With restrictions changing and easing both at home and abroad, Will McAleer, CEO of the Travel Insurance Association of Canada, said travel insurance is an important part of any Manitoban’s trip.
“Ask your insurance broker, a travel agent, ask them if it’s going to cover or not if you catch COVID while you’re away,” he said. “Because the cost of a medical emergency related to that, if you’re in the emergency room, can be quite significant.”
McAleer said Manitobans can purchase travel insurance over the Internet, directly from an insurance company or insurance broker, or from a travel agent. He said wherever Manitobans buy insurance, it’s important to ask questions.
Silver said anyone wishing to travel should speak to their insurance company about what is and is not covered.
“Make sure you have appropriate cancellation insurance, and it’s cancellation for the reasons you’re comfortable with,” he said.