Whitehorse travel agents aren’t exactly in a festive mood as Christmas approaches.
“Sometimes I just want to turn my brain off and go into the wilderness,” a representative of a local travel agency told the Star earlier this week.
The pressure of dealing with constant changes to travel restrictions, particularly with governments making changes at short notice, is incredibly stressful, the agent said. “It’s obviously annoying.”
Those sentiments were shared by Denis O’Brien of Marlin Travel.
If anything, he was even more blunt about the state of the travel industry in general, not just what should be one of the busiest times of the year.
“People are stressed out,” he declared during an interview.
O’Brien is one of the most-recommended travel agents in the city, and has been in the business for a number of years.
Now, he’s struggling to keep it afloat, and wondering what the future holds for him.
Interestingly, O’Brien said, the situation really isn’t any worse right now, despite a raft of federal travel restrictions dealing mostly with international travel.
However, even here in the Yukon, public health officials are recommending against domestic travel. They’re even suggesting travel among territorial
communities be limited as much as possible.
“It’s worse in that it’s not getting any better,” he said. “A lot of travel agencies won’t exist whenever this is all over.”
That quite possibly includes his own office.
O’Brien said he had hoped to retire in a few years when he turned 72.
“Now I’ll have to work until I’m 85 to make up for this,” he said with a tinge of anger. “Business is almost non-existent. The volume is miniscule.”
Many people are still reluctant to travel, especially by air, since the pandemic began.
The past summer’s loosened restrictions in the Yukon were starting to help things improve, he said, although many were still unwilling to travel despite the pent-up demand.
Then, mounting numbers of COVID-19 cases started to dampen that enthusiasm, O’Brien said.
The advent of the Omicron variant caused governments to re-introduce travel restrictions, sometimes even domestically.
Federal officials are advising Canadians not to book non-essential travel outside Canada. Incoming travellers face testing and self-isolation requirements based on their vaccination status.
Newfoundland and Labrador, for instance, has arguably the toughest restrictions in Canada. Fully-vaccinated travellers must self-isolate for five days and be tested daily in that province.
Most of the more stringent conditions for travelling are in the Maritime provinces.
As of the past Wednesday in Prince Edward Island, all travellers must self-isolate for four days. Incoming travellers receive two rapid tests at their point of entry over that four-day period.
Nothing similar is in place yet as you travel west in Canada, but that doesn’t mean much, both local travel agents said.
One of the most infuriating things for industry professionals is the short notice governments are providing for their travel advisories. It’s almost impossible to
keep up with them.
Bookings and cancellations are in a constant state of flux, and the pressure is taking its toll on both travellers and agents.
Neither agent sees much sign of any improvements coming either.
O’Brien said, half-seriously, that his son told him the pandemic might last until 2032.
If that’s the case, he reiterated, most travel agencies won’t exist.