(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

Dr. Bernhardt’s freshly planted strawberries. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Hoping for a bumper crop of strawberries

Because our new plot gets a lot of sun, maybe strawberries won’t become consumed by wood bugs

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Newton’s first law of motion

I could have sworn I told them to help each other get unbuckled and to come inside.

Commercial property owners in Duncan will have an opportunity to beef up their security in 2021 with matching grants from the municipality. (File photo)
City of Duncan to help commercial properties increase security

Municipality to set up matching grant opportunities

John and Jeri Wyatt hope the upcoming North Cowichan public hearing will move things along toward exclusion of the Chemainus River Campground from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Input sought on Chemainus campground ALR exclusion at public hearing

Matter back on the agenda after a late reprieve in 2019 for Chemainus River Campground owners

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

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

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Most Read