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Travel agencies left struggling during what is typically a busy air travel season

'I would say the industry is down 85 to 90 per cent easily'

COVID-19 has people rethinking how they will spend their summer vacation because of closed borders and cancelled flights.

And that has sent the tourist travel business into a tailspin.   

“I would say the industry is down 85 to 90 per cent easily,” said Chris Mayne, owner of Mayne Travel Services in North Bay.  

“There has been a sharp decline in domestic and international travel. Travel volumes are nowhere near where they would be in a typical summer season. An example of that right now is Canadians cannot fly into the United States unless they are travelling as an essential traveller. Even travel to Europe - unless it is essential travel - many countries will not let you in at this point.”

And then there is the matter of self-isolation.

“When they do arrive, there is generally a two-week quarantine. So, for people who are going there, probably for personal family reasons, it is not like a typical summer where people would travel to France or Italy or Greece, Alaska or even the British Isles. And cruises continue to be cancelled right now reasonably into the early fall.”

Mayne adds that bookings for business travel are a mere fraction of what they normally are for this time of year.

“The ramifications this year with COVID is if you are sending say a mining crew out of province somewhere, will they even be allowed in, period?” questioned Mayne.

“For many people who are still travelling there is that two-week self-isolation quarantine requirement that applies even within certain provinces in Canada. So as a business, you’re having to pay for hotel rooms and meals for two weeks before your employees can even start to do the work they were sent to do. And when you come back to Ontario, regardless of why  you are travelling, there is another two-week self-isolation requirement there as well.”

Mayne says the bottom line is, the travel business revolves around people getting on and off aircraft.

“Most people right now are reluctant to travel even with masks and sanitizers and other precautions in place.”

Adding insult to injury, Air Canada announced a few weeks back that it is discontinuing service on 30 domestic routes and closing eight stations at regional airports across the country including North Bay.

See relatedair-canada-announcement-devastating-news-for-jack-garland-airport-and-local-economy-

“Just when you think the situation is challenging enough, there is something else to deal with,” said Mayne

“There are a lot of businesses and travellers in the area that count on that North Bay to Toronto service to make connections to ongoing flights within North America and internationally. It is a significant portion of our business, so we hate to lose that selling feature to clients about being able to fly North Bay to Toronto, have your bags transferred and connecting on to places like Vancouver, Los Angeles, London England or Hong Kong, wherever it is you’re flying to.”

That being said, Mayne is starting to get inquiries about winter bookings.   

“So far, we have seen people start to rebook for late November, December, January and into the winter months for 2021. So, I think everyone is hoping that travel conditions will improve by that point. And some people might just like to have some warm weather to look forward to during the winter months. But again, not in the numbers that we would normally see in another more typical tourist travel season.”

Some tour companies are offering incentives such as smaller deposits and reduced cancellation penalties.

“So there has been some incentives. We’re still expecting more incentives to come out at the end of the summer, early fall which would be a more typical time of the year for people to start to focus on winter vacations,” said Mayne.