Being locked up for the winter is a prospect millions of Canadians face with dread. It’s normally the time that visions of warm surf, palm trees and margaritas beat out thoughts of sugar plums hands down.
But this is no regular year. And with surges of Covid-19 continuing in the headlines, international travel (be it to the US sunbelt, Mexico or the Caribbean) is simply plunging off the charts – even though vacation facilities are luring erstwhile customers with assurances of safety and unremitting sunshine.
Outbound trips in Canada are down 95.6 per cent
The Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) cuts right to the bone with its latest travel update through the first 10 months of 2020: 155,000 outbound trips in the month of August – down 95.6 per cent compared to August 2019. And for January to August 2020, Canadians made just 8.36 million overnight trips to the US and other destinations, compared to 23.2 million for the same months last year (those data include the first three months of 2020 when the fear of Covid was not yet in full flight).
Though Canada has withstood the pandemic more favourably than most other Western nations ... persisting concerns about future lockdowns and the continuing US/Canada border closure ... is like a leaden life preserver
The first lockdown in April and May generated a 97-per-cent decline in Canadian travel to Europe and the UK. And that trend barely moderated thereafter, even during the initial ‘easing up’ of summer travel to Europe: down 95 per cent in June, and down 90 per cent in August (compared to the same months in 2019). Canadian travel to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America in the first eight months of 2020 was down to 2.1 million arrivals, minus 48 per cent, with almost all of that activity occurring in the first three months of the year.
As for Asia, Oceania and the South Pacific, Canadian arrivals dropped 73.4 per cent in the first eight months of 2020 – almost all of that in the first three months: virtually nothing since. So far in 2020, travel to China is down 87 per cent for the year, Hong Kong 88 per cent, and Macao 88 per cent. Again, most of that recorded in the first three months.
Continuing fears of further lockdowns dampen new sales
Though CBoC data on travel insurance sales is still in process, incidental reports gathered by ITIJ reflect a mirror image of activity, most brokers busier with issuing rebates for cancelled trips and premature returns of Canadians to the safety of their homes last season than for forthcoming sales; and confidence about new sales being tempered by continuing fears of further lockdowns.
Though Canada has withstood the pandemic more favourably than most other Western nations (fewer confirmed cases, deaths and lower case fatality ratios per 100,000 inhabitants) persisting concerns about future lockdowns and the continuing US/Canada border closure (except for commerce) is like a leaden life preserver.
The CBoC reports that ‘a small uptick’ in travel activity did occur during the peak summer months, but short- term outlook continues weak. With the reintroduction of border closures abroad and a 68-per-cent drop in air travel capacity, trips to the US are estimated to decline by 15.4 million, and a 60 per cent decrease in air travel is expected for other countries.
Consequently, Canada’s Consumer Confidence index dropped 9.5 points lower in October from September as restrictions were tightened in response to fears of a second wave. That was the largest drop since April. Primarily the drop was precipitated by concerns about future job prospects. At the same time, consumer sentiment about future finances dropped to its lowest point since April. The conclusion: just 18.5 per cent of respondents think it’s a good time to make a major purchase. And where is that confidence lowest? In Ontario, which houses 38 per cent of Canada’s population.