How popular vacation destinations for Canadians are faring in the coronavirus crisis
A beach in Aruba is shown in this photo provided by the Aruba Tourism Authority.
TORONTO -- Many Canadians normally start planning vacation getaways this time of year, with winter just three months away. But in a pandemic year, when many would-be travellers are likely opting to stay home, airlines are trying to entice them by offering free COVID-19 insurance coverage on some flights.
The Canadian government’s official travel advisory still recommends Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside the country. But for those choosing to take their chances, which of the popular vacation spots have high cases? Which are doing relatively well? And which ones are even open to Canadian tourists?
According to a "trends in travel" report produced by the American online travel shopping company, Expedia, countries like Aruba, Mexico and St. Lucia have become “go-to travel destinations for Canadians in search of a warm beach vacation closer to home.”
The charts below track the COVID-19 statuses of some of the more popular island destinations, including some European countries that have become popular recently with Canadians, according to Expedia data that tracks "flight demand" among Canadian users.
Not seeing the charts below? Click here
When COVID-19 cases are measured per capita, Aruba tops the list as one of the countries worst hit by the virus. As of Sept. 16, the country reported 1,630 active cases with a total case number of 3,328, a significant increase from the 13 cases that were reported at the beginning of August. That’s out of a population of just under 107,000 people.
The country opened its borders to welcome international travel in June with some restrictions, after initially keeping them closed for several months to help limit the spread of the virus. Officials say more than 11,000 international travellers visited the island less than a month after reopening.
“As one of the most tourism dependent countries in the world, the impact of COVID has been a massive challenge,” CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes told Travel Pulse in August. “Beach destinations rank high on travellers’ wish lists and we’ve seen a strong desire for people to travel to Aruba.”
An Air Canada flight from Aruba to Toronto on Aug. 8 carried a passenger infected with COVID-19.
Hotel resorts in Mexico have seen an increase in travellers, as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on nationals at home. Earlier this month, the country had to order 1.1 million additional death certificates after parts of the country ran out.
The country has topped more than 70,000 official COVID-19 related deaths, though experts believe the actual death toll is likely to be much greater due to discrepancies with the data.
There are currently no testing or quarantine requirements in place for travellers to Mexico. In May, the Los Cabos Tourism Trust (FITURCA) announced that it would introduce a five-phase plan to reactivate tourism in the area amid the pandemic. “The way we travel may have changed, but the experiences in Los Cabos remain unique,” Rodrigo Esponda, Director General of FITURCA said in a statement.
Health officials in Saint Lucia are taking a strict approach when it comes to letting tourists into the country. Before arriving, travellers must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than seven days prior to their arrival.
Saint Lucia allowed tourism to resume on July 9. All visitors are required to submit a travel registration form advising officials of their vacation details no less than three days before their departure to the island. “The processing of passengers coming in has helped to protect the health and safety of our people,” Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee said, according to a report in the St. Lucia Times. Fedee called the screening facility at the country's Hewanorra airpor world class.
Starting on Sept. 15, all tourists visiting a hotel in the Dominican Republic will be given a temporary travel insurance plan that will provide coverage for COVID-19 testing, lodging for prolonged stays in case of quarantine, and the cost for changing flights in the event of an infection. The insurance will be provided free of cost to the visitor until the end of December.
Officials are hoping the plan will help relaunch tourism in the country and help travellers feel at ease. Tourism is one of the main pillars supporting the Dominican economy and accounts for approximately eight per cent of the country’s total GDP.
Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced in July that the country had reached a COVID-19 milestone with no new cases over a period in June. Since then, the country has managed to maintain a relatively low number of new infections.
All travellers from high risk counties with more than 10,000 new cases are strongly encouraged to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their departure to Barbados. Travellers from low risk countries with fewer than 100 new cases are asked to take a COVID-19 test within seven days of travel.
Travellers are also asked to complete an online embarkation and disembarkation card with personal health questions relating to COVID-19 symptoms. Once all the required steps are completed and supporting documents are uploaded travellers will receive a bar code via email. Upon arrival, travellers will be asked to produce their negative test results and bar code to clear immigration.
The islands opened its international airport on July 22, 2020. Since then there has been an uptick in the number of COVID-19 Cases in Turks and Caicos.
Canadian travellers are allowed to travel to Turks & Caicos without a tourist visa for stays up to 90 days. All travellers coming into the islands are required to obtain pre-travel authorization which involves providing a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, taken within five days prior to travel.
The islands currently have a nightly curfew until Sept. 30, 2020, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Belize is currently closed for international travel, but plans to reopen its airport on Oct. 1, 2020.
All travellers to the Central American nation must test negative for COVID-19 and only stay at approved hotels. Some of the pre-travel requirements involve downloading and registering on the “Belize Health app” that will help authorities manage your movement in the country and provide COVID-19 related information. Visitors must also take a PCR test within 72 hours of boarding their flight.
As of July 1, 2020, Canada became one one of the medium-risk countries from which travel to Curacao is allowed.
Canadians will have to show proof of a negative result from a certified COVID-19 PCR-test by uploading the results to an official Curacao website before departure for the country.
Canadians will also have to show proof they haven’t travelled to another high-risk country or have been in contact with a person who tested positively for COVID-19, within 14 days prior to arrival.
After a surge of cases in August, stay-at-home orders went into effect for the public. Hotels, villas, Airbnb accommodations, guest houses, temporary vacation housing, and charter vessels were told not to accept or book any new reservations until Sept. 19, 2020, when the country reopened its borders for international travel.
All travellers are now required to provide negative COVID-19 test results via the online "travel screening portal."
Apart from accepting those travelling from the European Union, from a country in the Schengen area, Spain is also accepting travellers from Canada, along with 11 other countries that have a reciprocal agreement with Spain for accepting travellers.
Canadians can travel to Spain without a visa for stays up to 90 days. All travellers are required to fill out a health control form before departing for Spain.
As of July 17, 2020, Canadians can travel to Germany.
Travellers entering Germany following a stay in a risk area within the past 14 days must self-isolate for 14 days. As of September, Canada is not a risk area for Germany and hence the self-isolation and testing requirements don’t apply to Canadians. But testing is encouraged.
Japan remains closed to international tourists and foreigners who’ve been to any of over 100 countries around the world -- including Canada -- within the past 14 days. The travel ban covers all foreign nationals, including those holding permanent resident status.
Japan is planning to gradually re-open its borders to business travellers and certain professionals from countries where COVID-19 has been contained. Students will then follow, and lastly, tourists, although no specific timeline has yet been provided.
Canadian travellers to Italy must observe a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Canadians are among visa-exempt countries that must fill out an Italy Self-Declaration form that must be provided when boarding transportation including flights and trains in Italy.
As of July 1, Canadians were among 14 nationalities allowed to travel to Europe’s Schengen Area for up to 90 days without a visa. (The visa-free Schengen Area includes 27 EU nations plus four non-EU nations – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden).
Thailand is still closed for travel and to all foreign nationals, with few exceptions. Only foreigners taking part in trade fairs, foreign film crews, and foreign visitors for medical and wellness services are being allowed to enter Thailand, but they’re subject to a 14-day quarantine and potential COVID-19 testing upon arrival.
The Thai government is planning to allow foreign tourists onto the island of Phuket starting October. But they must stay for at least 30 days and quarantine for the first 14 days of their visit.
Portugal opened its borders to Canadian on July 7, with no quarantine needed. Portugal claims to have successfully implemented ‘Clean and Safe’ – a searchable government certification and registry program -- to assure visitors its hotels, rental cars and restaurants are following health guidelines.
India has limited international travel at the moment. Travellers with an emergency visa issued after March 22, for medical and humanitarian purposes, are eligible enter India. Canadians are allowed to enter under a special bilateral air travel arrangement (special flights) if they meet any one of the following requirements: At least one family member (parent, child or spouse ) is an Indian citizen; is on a business visa; a journalist visa; is a Canadian healthcare professional or health researcher.
Those who fall under these categories must file for a new visa before travel. Upon arrival, travellers must undergo seven days of paid institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by seven days of isolation at home with self-monitoring of health. Travellers may be exempt from institutional quarantine by submitting a negative RT-PCR test report on arrival.
Canadians can freely travel to Switzerland, as it’s one of the approved countries listed by the Swiss government whose travellers don’t have to undergo mandatory testing or quarantines upon arrival.
All travellers should expect a health screening, however, upon arrival in the country.
Canadians were among nationalities allowed to enter Poland as of June, without any restrictions. Face coverings were no longer required outside as of May 30, but must be worn in public buildings and churches and on public transportation. Theatres are permitted to operate with 50 per cent occupancy.
Poland did, however, recently re-introduce a ban on flights from 46 countries, reacting to a spike in coronavirus infections. Canada was not among the countries affected.
With files from Jonathan Forani. Development from Jesse Tahirali and Mahima Singh