Travelzoo Canada: Canadians Eager to Travel But Safety, Flexibility Are Key
September 24, 2020 Jim Byers
Canadians are getting anxious to get out of town, and there’s significant interest in international travel starting in the new year. But safety and flexible booking options are key.
Canadian Travel News sat down virtually with Susan Catto of Travelzoo Canada this week to talk about Travelzoo’s recent studies of what Canadians are thinking about when it comes to travel.
Catto, Head of Content and Publishing, said more than 60% of Travelzoo Canada members say they’re hoping to take a getaway this fall.
“Primarily people are talking about local travel and road trips. Travel is very much still on people’s minds but of course it’s completely different.
“Safety is a priority like never before,” Catto said. “People are paying a lot more attention to regulations and cleaning procedures in place. Obviously, the good news is airports, airlines hotels and restaurants have all taken extra measures to reduce contact, which is huge.”
Catto said she works with KLM airlines, which requires passengers and crew to wear face masks on board and has adjust inflight protocols, including adjustments to inflight catering to limit contact between passengers and crew.
“Airplanes have better air than people think,” she said. “The HEPA filters capture something like 99.99 per cent of viruses. I want one of those in my house.
“Of course, you’re also getting into an aircraft that’s been thoroughly cleaned between flights. So, travelling with confidence about cleaning measures being used is a big thing.
“Related to that I think is people are seeking trips in the great outdoors or avoiding big cities. They’ve been stuck in their homes and they’re looking to make social distancing easier. For Canadians that’s a tough call in the winter, but I suspect people will be embracing winter a little more than they have in past.”
Catto said Travelzoo Canada has seen a rise in wilderness travel, such as camping or canoeing excursions. RV rentals also have skyrocketed in popularity.
“Another thing that’s big are upscale holidays in private cabins or villas in places that are a bit more distant. We have a deal to stay in Manning Provincial Park in BC that’s available on Travelzoo Canada. It’s the only resort in the park. People love that.
“The Hockley Valley northwest of Toronto has been hot, and we’re seeing deals for longer stays. People might be replacing what would’ve been a trip to the States with five days in Whistler or a long stay package at a villa at Blue Mountain (in Ontario). That’s been very popular.”
Yours truly was in Kingston, Ontario for a couple days last month. It wasn’t crowded by 2019 standards, but it felt relatively normal. We went from there to Montreal, where we found lots of folks walking and cycling along the Lachine canal but not many people hanging out in tourist areas, such as Old Montreal.
Catto agreed that Canadians have been zeroing in on small to medium-sized cities.
“Searches are way up for places like Whistler. It’s always been popular but now it’s hugely popular. Muskoka searches are through he roof in Ontario. Places within a couple hours of cities all over Canada are doing really well. Within Atlantic Bubble we had surprising interest a hotel in Cape Breton. People are doing these trips into nature or more of what we thought of as more distant or rustic destinations.
“Obviously, they’re looking for places that are not only affordable and feel safe. Places with kitchens are doing well because you can reduce your contact by making your own meals.”
RV’s sold out over the summer but they’re available now with kids back in school.
Catto said Travelzoo Canada has a 55% off deal on offer, with five nights from just $599.
“You can pick it up near Toonto, Calgary, Vancouver or Edmonton, and you can use one all the way through November. So, if you wanted an RV vacation in the summer and couldn’t pull it off there are now more available RV’s.”
This year may go down in history as the year of the road trip or staycation. But Catto agreed Canadians might feel more eager for a sun getaway when the snow starts to fly.
“Interest in international travel picks up dramatically after the new year,” she said. “When we ask members when they’re willing to travel (internationally) it’s after January 1.”
One of the biggest trends Travelzoo Canada is seeing is flexibility.
“It’s probably the biggest trend in the industry,” Catto explained. “Flexible booking policies are now the rule, not the exception.”
KLM, for example, has removed its change fees. In most cases, folks who cancel their flights can get their cash back, she said.
“There’s a terrible uncertainty around travel and around the pandemic in general. People really only feel comfortable booking when know they can make a change if they have to and not be out of pocket. I think the industry has really responded to that with more flexible policies.
“I’m happy to see things some of these trends because they’re so favourable for travellers.”
Still another trend are what Catto refers to as “community-first travellers.” Just as folks are trying to support their neighbourhoods or cities with things like “Take Out Tuesdsay,” international travellers are suggesting they’d like to do things to help local communities when they go back on the road.
“I think people are asking, ‘Do we want things to be the same when it starts up again?’ World tourism Day is Sunday, Sept. 27 so it’s a good time to think about it.
“You can’t miss that the hospitality sector has been devasted by COVID, so I think people are looking to do a little more of that sort of thing when they travel again.”
Another travel trend in the news of late is the so-called “workcation.”
With so many folks around the world working away from their traditional offices, Catto said Canadians aren’t as tied to home.
“They can go off and work in idyllic destinations, and we’re seeing these extended stays or workcations getting an extensive amount of interest. Everyone has probably heard about Barbados doing that. But. Estonia has a special visa for digital nomads, too,” and Bermuda has a similar program.
Still, many Canadians are reluctant to hit the road right now, and a return to some kind of normal could take some time.
“We asked our members, ‘What will make you want to travel again.’. One of biggest things is a vaccine. I think that is what’s going to be the big game changer for travel.
“I would expect things to start to bounce back once there’s a well established vaccine program.”
About the Author
Jim Byers was travel editor for five years at the Toronto Star, which has the largest travel section in North America. “Canada’s Travel Guy” is a sought-after expert in the industry and has recently published his first e-book “Ontario Escapes, 19: Places to Visit Right Now.” Jim also serves as Senior Editorial Director for TravelPulse Canada.