Yearning to travel: Southern Albertans looking to get away as COVID-19 restrictions ease

LETHBRIDGE — As COVID-19 cases continue to drop and vaccination rates climb, southern Alberta travel companies say they’ve noticed people are yearning to get away and start travelling again.

“The phones have been ringing,” said Tracy Hamilton, a travel advisor at Inspired Vacations in Lethbridge. “People are anxious to get out there.”

Hamilton joined Lethbridge Lodging Association project coordinator Shilpa Stocker for a Zoom presentation on The Future of Tourism, which was organized by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve got two years of pent up demand,” said Hamilton. “As vaccines rise people are feeling confident about getting out there.”

A survey conducted in early May suggests Albertans were more open to travel than residents of any other province. That survey suggests 51 per cent of Albertans somewhat/strongly agree with welcoming visitors to other parts of Canada. The second highest was Quebec, at 42 per cent.

And 28 per cent of Albertans were welcoming to travel to the United States, while 28 per cent want to go to countries outside of the U.S. when restrictions are eased.

“It really does rely on reopening borders, both within the country and a big one of course, with the U.S.” said Hamilton.

Travel rules vary from province-to-province, and from country-to-country and COVID-19 testing and quarantine regulations have been major deterrents for travellers.

“We’re definitely seeing a pickup in bookings,” said AMA manager Roland VanMeurs.

However, VanMeurs added, the uncertainty over how long the pandemic will last also means people are being cautious and booking further into the future.

“The majority are for 2022, 2023, for cruise lines and river cruises and such,” said VanMeurs.

He said bookings to Mexico for all-inclusive resorts are mostly for this winter, or in 2022.

Hamilton says the outlook for the summer is still very much still Canadian-based travel and staying close to home.

Stocker maintains that bodes well for the local tourism and hospitality sector.

“When we look at this we get very excited and optimistic,” she said.

She added the data shows the number of people going online to search for travel information is increasing, not only from within Canada but also from international markets.

“In spite of the international travel restrictions in place still, people are looking forward to travel,” she said.

If you are looking to getaway in the future, travel companies recommend you start planning now. The airline industry has been drastically impacted by the pandemic and there are fewer flights available to choose from.

Hamilton says it’s also important to keep in mind that because of the pandemic, many people have future travel credits from trips that were postponed and had to be rebooked.

“I’ve really found that the availability isn’t what we thought it would be,” said Hamilton.

It’s also recommended that you talk to a travel advisor because of changing restrictions and the higher potential for cancellations.

“Terms and conditions always existed, but now we have to think about that a little bit more,” said Hamilton.

She said the pandemic has also changed people’s outlook toward travel. Based on current trends, we can expect to see an increased demand for greener destinations, immersive experiences, vacation upgrades, and more multigenerational travel.

“We’ve missed graduations, we’ve missed weddings, we’ve missed our loved ones,” said Hamilton.

“We’re really seeing people saying why wait? Life is short.”

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