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Pandemic means vacationers sticking close to home this summer

But Sudbury travel agent says some are actually booking sun destination holidays for this winter
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People looking for a place to spend their summer vacation are sticking close to home, with spots like Killarney Mountain Lodge. (Supplied)

With COVID-19 restrictions being eased in Ontario this week, it will likely encourage more residents to consider summer vacation and travel ideas. That doesn't mean you can suddenly travel from coast to coast without restrictions, but there are still plenty of options to consider and stay healthy. 

That's some of the advice from travel professional Leah Miller, the manager at Merit Travel in Sudbury, who said the travel business is slowly coming back to life. But she said people are still being careful. 

"Travellers are being extremely cautious right now," said Miller. 

"The bookings we are seeing are for a minimum of six months from now. It is very slow, extremely slow. It's the flights people are most concerned with because certain airlines are delaying trips to certain destinations.

"People are being more optimistic, hoping that in a minimum of six months from now, things will be starting to go," she said adding that several clients have made travel plans for December. 

Without getting into specific destinations, Miller said people are hoping to book some "fun vacations," which she said usually means going to beach-front resorts in the Caribbean in the winter. She added that no bookings are being made to the U.S.A. at this time.

As for summer travel, Miller said it looks like most people are staying close to home.

"Domestic travel is the norm for this year, although we find a lot of people are staying near home or visiting relatives," said Miller.

She said travel in Canada is not wide open. Referring to the Canadian Travel and Tourism website, Miller revealed some Canadian provinces are open for travel without restrictions and some are not. 

For example, Ontario residents can travel to British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan in the west and to Quebec in the east. Travel is allowed to Manitoba, but first travellers must submit to a 14-day self-isolation. 

Travel is also restricted to the Atlantic provinces unless you have certain specific reasons, and, even then, travellers must self-isolate for 14 days once they arrive. 

It is the same for Ontario residents who want to travel to the Yukon, Northwest or Nunavut Territories. Self-isolation is the rule. 

Closer to home, Miller said there are numerous high-profile Ontario destinations to satisfy your getaway desires.

"Of course, locally we have places like Killarney, which is taking bookings," said Miller. 

She said there are scores of popular outdoor adventure resorts across Ontario that are also accepting clients. Miller said people can see those online or talk to a travel professional. 

"Yes, we are still open for business," said Miller. 

Since the physical office is not yet open, Miller said all business is being conducted over the telephone and by email.

She said the current priority is to ensure clients can travel safely.

Her first piece of advice is to have a face mask, since that is becoming the new normal wherever you might travel.

"Everyone is being cautious and everybody is following the rules," said Miller. 

In the case of many international destinations, Miller said travellers will require proof that they have been tested for the COVID-19 virus within a few days previous to their travel.

She said she never gives travel advice without having clients refer to Government of Canada websites to ensure the information is up-to-date.

"Things are changing daily. So something that was valid last week may not be valid this week. Or even today or tomorrow," she said.  "So it is extremely necessary to keep your finger on the pulse of things."

Miller said that advice is especially important if one has plans to leave the country. Another worthwhile website is the IATA (International Air Transportation Association) which provides public health advice for countries around the world. 

"And even when people call me and ask about a specific destination, I will not say anything until I have checked my resources again because it is just too fluid right now," said Miller. 

"We want people to be safe. That is our utmost concern as travel professionals; to ensure that our travellers, our clients are safe."


About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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