Families here and abroad are eager to get back on planes as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease
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Despite the sky-high cost of travel Amy Share is excited to take her two children to England for the first time this fall.

“I think less about the money because we haven’t been able to do anything for years,” says Share. “It is just the value that is there for me.”
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As prices for airline tickets continue their upward trajectory, the Montreal-based couple — Share and Firaz Sharaf — have been looking for ways to save on the big trip. In an effort to cut costs, they’ve decided to drive all the way to Boston and then fly to the U.K. from there.

“My first time doing that. I’ve flown in and out of Toronto before but not to the U.S.,” says Sharaf.

The family’s story is part of the growing trend of Canadians making the choice to travel despite economic deterrents like rising prices.

Inflation has hit Canadians hard this year. While it eased to seven per cent in August, the second month in a row, inflation is still far above the two per cent mark that the Bank of Canada wants to reach. Not only that but hefty food inflation reached a new high in August, hitting 10.8 per cent and rising at the fastest pace since 1981.

After surveying 2,279 Canadians from Aug. 8-10, Angus Reid Forum found that 56 per cent say they can’t “keep up with the cost of living” due to high inflation and rising interest rates.

Despite these survey results, international travel is still increasingly popular.

In August, 1.3 million Canadian residents returned by air from international travel. The number of travellers was almost three times greater than August 2021.

Canadians aren’t the only ones who are eager to get out again. Despite inflation sitting at 8.3 per cent as of August, Americans are chosing to spend on experiences, including travel to Canada.

U.S. residents took 1.1 million trips to Canada in August. This is the second consecutive month the number exceeded one million.

“The travel industry in Canada started to definitely rebound and head in the right direction,” says Sushant Trivedi, CEO of travel service Fresh Tracks Canada, who anticipates the demand for travel will go up in 2023, pushing prices even higher.

Trivedi explained there are some “significant tailwinds and headwinds” facing the industry at large.The surge in demand amid a significant labour shortage is one major problem.

“Post COVID-19 was larger than what a lot of members of the travel industry expected,” Trivedi added.

With this upsurge in demand and prices, Trivedi says people have accepted that they are paying a higher price for travel. But they won’t be accepting a “subpar” experience, he said. And this is why he is urging his industry counterparts to invest in the travel business to solidify the quality of the experience itself.

“As I joined the business (Fresh Tracks) in January, we’ve implemented a brand new strategy with heavy investment in customer service, technology and in overall automation and product development,” he explained.

He said that Fresh Tracks saw 50 per cent more clients than its pre-COVID levels in 2019.

“In fact, in September, we are seeing over 90 per cent more clients on the road than we had in September 2019,” he said. “So there’s definitely a positive positive trajectory in that regard.”

Even with the demand for travel high, the customer experience hasn’t always kept up.

Vaughan-based Luigi Marra, owner of Golden Gate Travel Agency Ltd., says there needs to be more investment in technology to make movements at Canadian airports more seamless.

“They knew the industry at some point was going to bounce back, especially after it’s been years for people since they’ve had vacation, that kind of thing. But again, they were not prepared for it,” Marra said.

Marra also sees a difference when he compares his travels in European airports, saying we shouldn’t blame the pandemic for all the travel bottlenecks.

“Pearson is just a nightmare,” Marra said, adding that airlines were “poorly prepared to handle the traffic.”

Marra, whose speciality is in corporate travel, is feeling the burn following air flight cancellations and delays that led his clients to opt for Zoom.

“They’re (airports) shooting themselves in the foot,” Marra said.

However, there are efforts to improve the customer experience.

On Aug. 17, Toronto Pearson airport announced that it is partnering with Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, Calgary International Airport and technology provider, SITA.

SITA will be providing all three airports with their flagship check-in and gate system, including a new generation kiosk, to simplify travel across Canada.

The kiosk will allow passengers to check-in and tag their own bags to allow a completely contactless journey.

“This initiative is a big step forward in helping us reach our passenger experience goals, while executing on our vision for a digitally-enabled airport,” Pearson said on its website.

The new systems are on track to start being installed at all three airports by early next year.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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