Relaxed restrictions, immunity from COVID-19 influencing travellers, say travel agents

With official COVID-19 case numbers slowly dropping — and many people having been infected with the virus during the latest wave — two Saskatchewan travel agents say they’ve noticed more people booking international travel.

“[As] things get better and restrictions get [lifted], people are getting more and more comfortable in terms of flying outside Canada,” said Rajan Sagar, manager of C World Travel in Regina. 

Sagar said that during the last few weeks he’s seen more bookings than any other time since the pandemic started. He believes people have waited a long time to take a vacation out of the country and are eager.

“Now I think is the time that [people] start thinking of getting to Mexico, or to hot places anywhere just to have fun,” he said.

Rajan Sagar of C World Travel in Regina says people in Saskatchewan who haven’t travelled internationally since the start of the pandemic are likely going now because of the news that restrictions are possibly being lifted and cases are dropping. (Zoom)

The Public Health Agency of Canada issued a notice in mid-December advising people to avoid non-essential travel out of the country because of rising cases. Around the same time, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe encouraged people to be cautious if they chose to travel, especially over the Christmas holiday, but didn’t implement any provincial travel restrictions.

According to Sandy Farber, manager and co-owner of Jubilee Travel in Saskatoon, clients who had COVID-19 during this latest wave have been booking international travel because they feel they don’t have to be worried about catching the virus.

Farber also noted travellers who have had COVID-19 from 10 to 180 days prior to their departure can present their positive PCR test to avoid paying for one at the border.

“You’ve got the golden ticket,” said Farber.

She said many tour operators and insurance companies have insurance plans built specifically for COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of little modules that have fit together very well to gain people’s confidence,” she said.

“We are a resilient industry. You give us a problem, we’re going to try and fix it.”

Some not sure about taking the risk

While some who have had COVID-19 are heading out of the country, others are not as eager.

Jennifer Riviere, her husband and their four kids were planning to visit Riviere’s parents in Arizona later this month. Riviere and her two oldest kids tested positive at the beginning of January after an outbreak at the kids’ high school in Radville. Her two youngest kids and her husband didn’t get infected.

Jennifer Riviere (seen here with her family on a trip to Florida before the pandemic) says she’s on the fence about travelling with her family to see her parents in Arizona this month, despite the fact that she and her two oldest kids were sick with COVID-19 in January. (Submitted by Jennifer Riviere)

Although the family is fully vaccinated, she’s on the fence about going, as three members of her family would still be at risk of getting sick.

“It’s a tough decision,” said Riviere. “I don’t want to get stuck down there with someone in the hospital. Is it worth it?”

She said her parents have taken precautions while down in Arizona and she wants to make sure they stay safe.

The family also can’t take advantage of the PCR test exemption at the border, because they used rapid tests to confirm they had the virus. Riviere said her daughter was the only one who got a PCR test — as she was the first to show symptoms — but it came back negative. By the time Rivere and her son started showing symptoms, they didn’t feel up to driving into Weyburn to get their tests done. 

Riviere’s family has until the day before their planned trip to Arizona to cancel their seats on their flight and receive credit for a future trip. (Submitted by Jennifer Riviere)

Riviere is grateful that when she purchased the family’s flight tickets in November, she paid extra so they could cancel up to the day before their departure and receive a credit for a future trip. 

“There is kind of this pressure of things that we want to do, but on the other hand we’re not going to die if we don’t go on a trip,” she said. “You have to keep it in perspective.”