Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

Geopolitical and Economic Turmoil Is Reordering Where Travelers Go in 2023

1 month ago

A mix of international tensions, economic turmoil, and political tension is causing many travelers to rethink the destinations they’re prioritizing on their “bucket lists” in 2023, according to an article on Wednesday in Toronto’s The Globe and Mail.

The most obvious example is Russia, which many Western tourists have avoided since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Some reasons are practical. Foreign bank cards may not work locally, and flights into and out of the country are limited for residents in North America and Europe.

China continues to raise question marks in the minds of some travelers. The Globe and Mail quotes a frequent traveler who has visited 40 countries who had previously wanted to visit China but has been put off in the short-term by the country’s alarming policies. The arbitrary detention of two Canadian travelers soured China’s reputation among some Canadians.

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of tour company G Adventures, said customer demand has shrunk in the past few years for several destinations, including Iran, Myanmar, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.

Beirut, which had been a party city for many jetsetters, has lost its appeal because of Lebanon’s economic collapse.

But it’s not all bad news. Some countries are gaining interest from travelers. Canada’s appearance as a safe, stable destination may help it attract visitors. Colombia, Egypt, South Korea, and Costa Rica have also seen rising demand.

Click the link for the full article from The Globe and Mail.

A Shrinking Map for Tourists

Airlines

WestJet’s Proposed Sunwing Deal Raises Competitive Concerns

3 months ago

Canada’s Competition Bureau has potentially thrown cold water on WestJet’s proposed purchase of leisure and tour competitor Sunwing Airlines.

In its report Wednesday, the regulator said the deal “would likely result in increased prices, less choice and decreases in service for Canadians.” It identified 31 routes between Canada and the Caribbean and Mexico where competition would likely decrease as a result of the merger.

WestJet responded Wednesday by thanking the Competition Bureau for the report, and emphasizing the fact that it is only “advisory and non-binding.”

“We look forward to bringing this transaction to life for the benefit of Canadian travelers, communities and employees,” the Calgary-based airline said.

Canada’s Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, will issue a final decision on the deal.

Two Sunwing aircraft at the Guatemala City airport
(Roberto Zuñiga/Flickr)

WestJet has said that, if the deal is approved, it would keep the Sunwing brand while merging Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Vacations into a new vacation division. And since announcing the transaction in March, WestJet has unveiled plans to shrink in eastern Canada — where Sunwing is strongest — and focus its own operations in western Canada.

WestJet hopes to close the purchase of Sunwing by next spring.

Read the Competition Bureau Report

Tourism

Canada’s Travel Bans Were Ineffective at Stopping Covid — Study

4 months ago

A review into Canada’s strict travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic has claimed they did little to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The report, called Evaluating Canada’s Pandemic Border and Travel Policies: Lessons Learned, was written by four Canadian doctors specializing in infectious diseases and pandemic management, and was published just days before the country said it would lift all entry restrictions from Oct. 1.

It said that mandatory arrival and departure testing, quarantines, travel advisories, and other border restrictions did not materially reduce the spread of variants of concern across Canada.

The report echoes a review carried out in July into the UK’s “traffic light” system of travel restrictions, on which the government spent $585 million. The UK government, ultimately, did not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused, according to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

However, it’s worth noting that this latest study may be self-serving; it was commissioned by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada in partnership with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.

However, they argue that with the benefit of hindsight — namely more than two years of analysis — there was no scientific basis to apply stricter health measures to travel and tourism than to other industries.

“Enough time has passed for us to make a scientific assessment as to whether the travel restrictions introduced by the federal government were successful in containing the spread of the virus and its variants,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Diseases Physician and Associate Professor at McMaster University.

“At best, travel restrictions are estimated to delay the impact of a variant of concern by a few days,” the report stated.

It also found there was no convincing evidence that pre-departure and on-arrival testing and surveillance had a significant impact on local transmission in Canadian communities.

Alternative measures, such as community wastewater testing, were also deemed to be more accessible surveillance mechanisms to identify variants without inconveniencing travelers and requiring significant government and industry resources.

Airlines

Canada to Lift Last Covid, Mask Restrictions

4 months ago

Canada will end all entry restrictions on October 1, with major national airlines Air Canada and WestJet welcoming the change.

Gone are requirements that certain travelers provide proof of vaccination, undergo pre- or post-arrival testing, or quarantine or isolate after arrival, the Canadian government said on Monday. Fully vaccinated travelers have not been subject to most of these rules since March 1. The country also lifted mask requirements for planes and trains.

Toronto CN Tower Skyline
(Can Pac Swire/Flickr)

“Air Canada welcomes the removal of these restrictions,” Air Canada Chief Operating Officer Craig Landry said. “We believe it will greatly facilitate travel, help to continue stabilizing the country’s air transport sector and support Canada’s economy.”

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech echoed Landry’s comments in a separate statement, adding that the “announcement aligns with the travel policies of other major nations.”

International airline seats to Canada is down 19 percent compared to 2019 in September, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. For comparison, international seats to the U.S. — where travel restrictions were eased months ago — are down just 15 percent.

Tourism

Taiwan to Resume Visa-Free Entry for Canada, U.S. and Allies from Next Week

5 months ago

Taiwan will be reinstating visa-free entry for visitors from U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe and its “diplomatic allies,” from September 12.

However, visitors would still need to quarantine at home for three days and would need to get tested on arrival. The current cap of 50,000 inbound passengers per week would also remain in place. The prevention measures issued by the Taiwan government also includes four days of self-health monitoring for inbound arrivals.

Taiwan plans to extend the visa exemption to more countries. Inbound group tours are still not allowed in the country.

In June, Taiwan shortened the duration of home isolation to three days from seven days, while increasing the cap on inbound arrivals to 25,000 per week. From August 15 onwards, the country lifted its requirement for a pre-arrival polymerase chain reaction test from inbound arrivals. 

Monday’s announcement of the resumption of visa-free free entry by Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center signals the country’s efforts to relax restrictions put in place during Covid while keeping pace with reopening mesaures of Asian destinations.

The center highlighted the need to balance disease prevention efforts and promotion of economic and social activities.

The decision has been made after a comprehensive assessment and in light of the fact that most countries in the world have opened their borders, Victor Wang, head of the Central Epidemic Command Center, said during a press conference on Monday afternoon.

“Border control measures and epidemic prevention measures would be adjusted in a rolling manner depending on the changes in the epidemic situation,” the Taiwan government noted in a statement.

Even as Taiwan has been slowly relaxing restrictions for inbound arrivals, escalating differences with China has had a bearing on its tourism industry.

Sparked by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last month, China, in its biggest-ever military drills in the Taiwan Strait, had deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles near Taiwan.

Some airlines had cancelled flights to Taipei and rerouted others using nearby airspace that had been closed to civilian traffic during these military exercises. While the airspace involved had been comparatively small, but the disruption had hampered travel between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.

An earlier Skift story had also highlighted that the Taiwan tensions could drive up travel costs significantly.

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