80% of Canadians hope for leisure travel in 2021: poll – Business in Vancouver

Europe is the most popular international destination that Canadians say they plan to visit once the pandemic subsides | Getty Images

What happened: With British Columbians starting to get vaccinated, thoughts for some are on when and where to travel, according to a new poll.

Why it matters: The travel sector is important for the Canadian economy, contributing $104.9 billion in spending in 2019, while normalized travel is key to getting the overall economy back on track. 

With the first British Columbians today getting vaccinated against COVID-19, people are likely to start envisioning a post-pandemic world with fewer travel restrictions.

Most people who love to travel, and who have been cooped up at home during 2020, are likely starting to contemplate travel in 2021.

The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) on December 15 released details of its October survey in which 80% of 1,000 Canadians surveyed said that they “hope” to travel in 2021, with 59% saying that they were planning travel within Canada due to concerns about contracting COVID-19 in other countries.

When respondents were asked where they would plan to travel once the pandemic has subsided, Canada was the top destination (37%), with Europe (22%), the Caribbean (16%) and Asia (10%) coming as the next top destinations. Those who said U.S. had their answers captured under an umbrella category called other, which netted 8% of responses.

There was remarkably little interest in travelling to the U.S., said THIA executive director Will McAleer.

“It’s surprising to see that Canadians would consider travelling half way across the world before crossing the U.S. border,” he said. “We are curious to see actual travel trends that emerge once government travel advisories are lifted and leisure travel resumes.”

The U.S. has historically been the most popular international destination by far for Canadian travellers. Americans are also the No. 1 source of tourists for B.C. and Canada, with 64% of the more than 6.2 million international overnight visitors to Canada through B.C. points of entry in 2019, according to Statistics Canada and Destination British Columbia.

Still, 79% of Canadians in the THIA survey said they would not travel to the U.S. this winter even if their travel health insurance policy provided coverage for COVID-19.

Habitat Insurance Agencies Ltd. office manager Richard Batista told BIV last week that he believes most people understand that their basic health insurance policies are unlikely to cover them if they contract COVID-19 when abroad and need healthcare.

richard batista

(Image: Habitat Insurance office manager Richard Batista says few travellers are buying COVID-19 emergency health insurance | Rob Kruyt)

“The insurers we use have separate policies for the basic part of the travel insurance, and then another policy strictly for the COVID-19 portion of the insurance,” he said. “Essentially, you would have two policies for the same trip: one to cover COVID-19 related illness, and one to cover everything else.”

He then provided an example of a 50-year-old man who went on a two-week trip to the U.S. and could purchase the basic portion of his insurance for $42. The cost would be $36 to travel internationally outside the U.S., Batista said.

Buying a policy to cover COVID-19 emergency health insurance would then cost an additional $84 for that man travelling to the U.S., and $49 to travel to any other international destination.

“In total, the two U.S. policies would be $126, and the two international policies would be $85,” he said.

Despite the availability of extended policies that cover COVID-19 complications, Batista said that there has not yet been much interest in buying those policies.