(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Safety is the new hospitality: A guide to summer travel during COVID-19

Any kind of travel comes with risks, experts say, so Canadians overcome by wanderlust need to take precautions

After a dreary winter and months of sheltering in place, many Canadians may be keen to skip town and get away from it all this summer.

Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any kind of travel comes with risks, experts say, so Canadians overcome by wanderlust need to take precautions before they head out on vacation.

For tips on how to travel responsibly, The Canadian Press spoke to Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Toronto; Frederic Dimanche, director of Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management; and Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Toronto-based travel company G Adventures.

Stay at home, or at least close to it

From a public health perspective, Tuite says the best travel advice is “don’t.” But if the road is calling your name, Tuite recommends not straying too far from home.

Every place is dealing with its own epidemiological challenges, and has its own restrictions aimed at containing them, she says.

If you live in a city with a high rate of infections, there’s a danger that you’ll spread the disease to a community that has COVID-19 cases under control, says Tuite. Conversely, people from low-incidence regions who venture out of town run the risk of bringing the novel coronavirus back with them.

“The resources in these in many rural areas are quite different from what we have in big cities,” says Tuite. ”If you have an influx of people, and consequently an influx in disease, it doesn’t take much for those health-care systems to get overwhelmed.”

Morever, every time you cross the border, you have to contend with the complex web of travel restrictions that lie on the other side, says Tuite. Those can include health screenings, border closures and self-isolation requirements upon arrival or return.

Dimanche notes there are economic benefits to exploring your own backyard.

Tourism is big business in Canada, says Dimanche. The industry brought in more than $80 billion in spending from January to September of 2018, and supports 1.8 million jobs in across the country, according to a Statistics Canada report last year.

But as the COVID-19 outbreak brought international travel to a near standstill, Dimanche says many Canadian tourism enterprises are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Many operators make most of their profits during the summer months, says Dimanche, so it’s up to Canadian patrons to make sure these businesses survive to see next season.

Plan ahead, but be flexible

Tuite says preparation is key to staying safe while in unfamiliar territory.

She recommends travellers pack their bags with masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to keep the virus at bay.

She says folks hitting the road should try to bring their own food and supplies in order to limit their exposure to locals. And if you’re driving a long distance, Tuite warns that you’re unlikely to find an available bathroom along the way.

Dimanche says many tourism operators have had to limit their capacity in accordance with physical distancing protocols, so it’s better to book now than later.

However, he warns that travellers may not always get the vacations they paid for, or at least when they planned to take them.

Airlines and other travel companies are taking reservations based on murky predictions about how the pandemic will unfold, he says, and often offer credits in lieu of reimbursement for cancellations.

Poon Tip says tour guides will have to be nimble about changing plans based on conditions on the ground.

That means asking customers to roll with the punches and embrace uncertainty as part of the adventure, he says.

Safety is the new hospitality

Tuite says camping is likely the least risky form of travel, followed by heading to the cottage, so long as you stay on your property.

She says tourists looking for lodging should avoid shared spaces in favour of private accommodations, and be sure to sanitize high-touch surfaces before they settle in.

Hotels are probably preferable to home stays, which don’t have the same strict cleaning standards, she says.

Dimanche says guests will notice a few differences from the moment they arrive at their hotels, with some establishments adopting phone or online registration systems to prevent loitering in the lobby.

When they get to their room, guests may notice that some amenities are missing, such as mini-bars and branded pens, which could have been touched by previous occupants, says Dimanche.

“Safety is going to be the main modus operandi for the customers,” he says. “A number of things are going to change people’s behaviour and expectations of what a clean room should be.”

Poon Tip says G Adventures, which has suspended tours until July 31, is shaking up itineraries to make customers feel more comfortable.

That includes skipping high-traffic destinations, such as museums and historical monuments, in favour of more remote attractions.

Take it all in

Even before the age of COVID-19, seeing the world always meant accepting some degree of risk, says Dimanche, whether it be pickpocketing or local cuisine that disagrees with your digestive system.

Dimanche recognizes that the danger of a contagion has a much farther reach and potentially fatal consequences.

However, he says if people are aware of the risks, and take steps to protect themselves and others, they may find there are mental-health benefits to exploring the world beyond their COVID-19 bunkers.

“This pandemic has shown that we’re so connected as a planet,” says Poon Tip.

“My hope is that travellers on the other side of this are more connected to destinations.”

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Left: Tabor Home in Abbotsford; right: Menno Home (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News; Google Street View)
Fraser Health appoints officials to ‘provide oversight’ at Abbotsford care homes hard hit by COVID-19

Fraser Health says they have provided ‘additional leadership supports’ at Tabor Home and Menno Home

Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver says a recent assignment about residential schools shows the need for better education for teachers on the topic. (File photos)
Sumas First Nation chief ‘dumbstruck’ by residential school assignment, says more education needed

Dalton Silver says school officials are trying to improve understanding, but much work is needed

Archway staff members Mike and Jennifer with the 2019 Prospera Youth Angel Tree gifts. (Submitted photo)
Youth Angel Tree Project underway in Abbotsford

Program at Prospera Credit Union provides gifts for disadvantaged youth

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at third Chilliwack care home in two weeks

Two staff members at Bradley Centre in Chilliwack tested positive for the virus

Fraser Valley Bandits vice-president Dylan Kular has released a statement offering his support for Indian farmers in their recent struggles. The City of Abbotsford has thus far remained silent on the issue. (Highstreet photo)
Fraser Valley Bandits VP Dylan Kular speaks out on India, City of Abbotsford silent on issue

W.J. Mouat grad states he supports farmers, unclear if City of Abbotsford will release statement

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Sept. 10, 2020 — In the photo is a W.L. McLeod student wearing a mask in a school bus, on his first day back-to-school. This year, due to COVID-19, students will have a different year than most. The President of B.C. Teachers’ Federation told Black Press Sept. 9, that she had a lot of mixed feeling about how ready the education system is for students to be coming back-to-school. Meanwhile, Libby Hart, Principal of W.L. Mcleod Elementary School in Vanderhoof said,” We know some of the families are still unsure, but most of our families have been great in connecting with us and talking to us.” Photos continued on Page 7. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
‘Significant’ changes coming to Fraser Health school exposure notices

Surrey superintendent tweeted there will be 3 letters sent out to a school community

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Most Read