Last Updated on March 2, 2021 by tripcentral
This survey was conducted October 6-13, 2020
Two-thirds of tripcentral.ca customers are interested in booking international travel, but there are many factors preventing them from booking right now. A link to a pdf presentation and detailed survey results are offered below.
Our hypothesis was that the mandatory 14-Day Quarantine (isolation) on return to Canada was a major economic deterrent, and further, a serious inconvenience even if you are retired or can work from home.
For those “extremely interested” in booking, the required quarantine on return (QoR) was the most important factor at 80% of respondents. For those “very interested” it was second at 72% and concerns about being quarantined abroad was slightly higher. For those “somewhat interested”, the QoR was the 7th highest reason at 58% response.
So, there’s much more going on here than just the quarantine on return.
Passengers returning from outside Canada to Calgary will have the option to take a free COVID-19 test on arrival. Once you have a negative test result (up to 2 days later), you will not need to quarantine, provided you stay in Alberta. You must also commit to taking a second test 6 days later, and of course, if you test negative again, there is no need to quarantine.
There is still the option of not taking the test and quarantining in isolation for 14 days at home.
We tested a similar idea in our survey. We asked our customers if they would consider receiving two home tests on arrival back in Canada (quicker). Take the first test when you get home. If it’s negative you do not need to quarantine, if positive, quarantine and contact your doctor. The proposal was to take the second test 5 days after as a safety, and only if you tested positive would you need to quarantine.
The Health Canada mobile app exchanges random codes by Bluetooth connection with other mobile phones with the app running where we are within 2 metres of someone for at least 15 minutes. If we all had this downloaded and running, it would be an anonymous way to communicate to others you have encountered of a positive test. It works. We know of people that were contacted anonymously via the app and who went for subsequent testing.
Until such time that there is widespread vaccination, all we can do is mitigate the risk of transmission. For some, that means not travelling at all and significantly limiting contact with others. For others, it means as much mitigation to reduce (but not eliminate) transmission to a manageable level, followed by aggressive testing and contact tracing. Mass testing at Calgary airport is a positive development for the reduction of community spread until such time as vaccinations are widespread.
Concerns about being quarantined abroad / insurance coverage
This is the top reason for those very and somewhat interested, and number 3 on the list for those extremely interested in booking international travel.
For several months up until late August, there were no companies offering out of province medical insurance that covered expenses related to COVID-19 while travelling. The market responded with coverage for sale, and it did not increase the cost enough to be a deterrent.
But these policies all cover medical expenses for up to $200,000 and “shelter in place” at your destination. They do cover modest accommodations and incidentals. tripcentral.ca sells Manulife that does offer this coverage. In addition, many of our suppliers are offering this free for a limited time to stimulate bookings.
If you still have concerns about being stranded abroad, you can buy an insurance policy to cover Air Ambulance coverage that includes COVID-19 patient transfer and even patients that are intubated. It’s available to Canadian residents under 75 years old, and they offer family plans. We have not vetted this company, but it is an example of the kind of coverage available. Over the coming weeks, we will be offering our customers a vetted air ambulance insurance plan offer.
Airline, Hotel, and Supplier Refund Policies
This is the number two or three reason for those interested in booking travel, and a solid number 5 on the list for those not interested in travelling if the quarantine on return were lifted. It is consistently chosen as a reason by over 70% of our customers who answered the survey.
We are constantly advocating our suppliers to do more to reduce the loss of funds on cancellation. While there are many angry customers out there with travel credits rather than refunds, at least there is not a complete loss of economic value – even if it is trapped in credit rather than back in your bank account.
Final payment due dates have been reduced from 42 or more days to 25 days for most suppliers. We believe that even 25 days is unnecessary. If deposits were lower and the final payment due dates were reduced further, it would reduce the risk of loss. If our suppliers could offer refunds for specific conditions such as the airline is no longer flying, or you tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot travel, or if case counts in your destination were rising, we believe this would stimulate demand.
Please remember, we do not set the deposit, final, or refund policies of our airline, tour operator and cruise line suppliers. One downside to more relaxed cancellation and refund policies is the chance that suppliers don’t have enough passengers to justify operating flights. This can be very frustrating when you are willing and able to go. The easier it is to cancel with a refund, the more uncertain the operation of flights are. Cancelled flights for lack of demand is not something travellers on previously jam-packed flights are used to.
Social Distancing. Sanitization, Aircraft Air Circulation
There is some lower-level concern raised by our customers for these things. Travel suppliers have gone a long way to meet the expectations of customers in these areas.
For the most part, airlines, hotels, even cruise lines (testing in Europe) are doing everything they can, just as your local grocery store or restaurants are adapting.
The more interested you are in booking international travel, the less you are concerned about these items. For those not interested at this time, sanitization was raised by 62% and social distancing 71%. Compare that to 42% and 55% for those somewhat interested, 28% and 32% for those very interested, and only 14% and 15% for those extremely interested.
Either those more interested are more aware of what airlines and travel suppliers are doing in this area, or it’s simply the difference in risk tolerance of contracting or transmitting the virus even in these conditions.
Here’s a few recent blog articles on the topics:
- Will I get sick from recycled air on an airplane?
- Measures Taken by All-Inclusive Resorts during COVID-19 pandemic
- Flying During the Pandemic
Mandatory Mask Wearing on Flights
Airports and airlines have mandatory mask requirements, and this appears to be a concern for anywhere from 16.5% to 21% of our survey respondents.
This would indicate that a little less than one-fifth of our customers will not travel until the end of the pandemic when masks are no longer required.
Masks have long been a regular occurrence for high-density travel (flights, trains, metro, even urban walking) in heavily populated places in Asia. We suspect that a fundamental behaviour change will take place even after the pandemic ends, where many will choose to continue to wear masks to mitigate the transmission of the common cold.
When will you be comfortable to book travel?
Our survey clearly indicates this depends on how interested you are right now. If you’re one of the 26% extremely interested to book travel if the 14-day quarantine on return to Canada were lifted, you’re far more likely to book between right now and winter 2021 (56% of 26% extremely interested).
If you’re not interested in booking travel if the Government lifts the quarantine right now, under 15% would consider booking between now and winter 2021.