By Jenna Zucker
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada attracted more than one million travelers in a week for the first time since the pandemic, government data showed on Friday, as easing of COVID-19 border restrictions encouraged visitors back into the country.
As Canada heads into its peak summer holiday season, tour operators are betting the revival seen in the first week of April would gather pace. Tourism was among the worst sectors to be hit by the pandemic.
“People are ready to spend more after being stuck at home for two years and want to stay at high-end properties in case COVID is still around,” said Alla Weintraub, a luxury travel advisor for F1S. “People believe those hotels will take better care,” she added.
Canada had imposed some of the strictest border measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, but after Ottawa dropped the requirement for COVID tests for vaccinated travelers starting April, tour companies began to see an uptick in bookings.
Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) said more than 1 million travelers were admitted into the country during the week of April 11. Still, visitor numbers are down about 44% from the April 15-17, 2019 period.
“Our phones became busier and busier, it gave more confidence to people. We’re still being careful, but it’s been encouraging,” said Elyse Mailhot, Marketing and Communications manager at Discover Canada Tours.
Rising travel demand is expected to be a theme when Air Canada releases quarterly earnings next week.
Tourism spending in Canada rose 4.4% in 2021 to C$50.8 billion ($40 billion) from 2020, when it fell 49% from 2019, official data released in March showed. In 2021, tourism accounted for 4.1% of Canada’s GDP.
While tours are picking up, it has become tough to find talent to lead them. “I think people moved to other industries,” Mailhot said. “Even students seem to be pickier.”
($1 = 1.2711 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Jenna Zucker; Editing by Marguerita Choy)