While most Albertans are opting for a Staycation in 2020, an Edmonton-based travel agency is promoting twice-weekly trips to the Caribbean.
"This week we are in Jamaica seeing firsthand the unprecedented safety measures the airlines and hotels are taking," said Hidar el-Mais of Travel Gurus, who started up the vacation packages via Toronto in early August.
"After four days I can confidently tell you I feel safe coming to an all inclusive resort. Just like our neighbourhood grocery has precautions to keep you safe, so do destinations like Jamaica," said el-Mais, who was recently aboard a full Air Canada Vacations flight from Toronto to Montego Bay.
The resort is inside a secure corridor, said el-Mais, who is convinced it is safe to travel despite a federal government advisory to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada.
"A recent poll on our Facebook page shows that almost 70 per cent of people surveyed can travel and quarantine for 14 days on return to Canada by working from home. It’s possible to travel safely and people can/want too."
For Canadians travelling to Jamaica, there is no quarantine required unless you are considered high-risk for COVID-19. As of mid-August, there were 1,082 COVID-19 cases in Jamaica with 14 deaths and 761 recovered.
While there are travellers opting to venture abroad in these uncertain times, most Albertans have been staying home this year, said an AMA travel rep.
"More people are going to the parks in our province than ever before due to COVID-19.," said Roland Van Meurs, member services manager for the St. Albert AMA office.
"Most of them are staying in western Canada and alot are heading to B.C. People are booking car rentals and hotels for the rest of Canada. Dollars that would have been used for trips elsewhere or overseas are being spent exploring their own backyard," he said.
Van Meurs did issue a reminder to park visitors to keep it clean.
"People need to respect the parks. Please take out whatever you take in. Give people space and follow COVID-19 protocols."
And while Jamaica is one of a handful of North American countries without travel restrictions, most destinations in Europe require a 14-day quarantine for visitors upon arrival.
"Those who do travel to Europe or overseas usually have family there or a second home because they must quarantine for 14 days once they arrive," said Van Meurs. (Due to the global travel advisory there is no out-of-country medical insurance available for Canadians.)
In early March, when COVID-19 first hit Alberta, Van Meurs said trip cancellation insurance was valuable for the thousands of Albertans who had trip plans disrupted.
"It really worked for alot of people," he said.
Van Meurs said many people are now booking up to a year in advance for cruises and vacations.
"People are getting 120 per cent value on their cruise if you rebook down the road," said Van Meurs, saying others have also offered refunds.
Wendy Munson said she and husband, Tom Walsh, had two spring cruises postponed due to COVID-19, one in the British Isles and the other in the Caribbean.
"We received 125 per cent credit on both trips. We are happy with that," said Munson, adding they have rebooked one of the cruises for next March.
Rick McFadyen of Sherwood Park said he and his wife Bauni have asked for a refund on a European river cruise that they were supposed to take in August.
"It has been 60 days and nothing, however, watching people who are part of a Crystal Facebook page, it appears they are refunding on average at about 130 or 140 days," said McFadyen, who said they are also attempting to get a refund for the flight portion of their trip.
The couple lost about $3,500 in non-refundable portions for a planned $10,000 safari to Tanzania that they booked for March 2021. McFadyen cancelled in July and they got some of their money back. The non-refundable portion was a gorilla trek to Rwanda.
Meanwhile, Canadians will be able to travel to Hawaii as of Sept. 1 without the mandatory 14-day quarantine, the state has announced, as long as vistors get a COVID-19 test prior to arrival.
For the latest travel advice from the federal government go to Government of Canada website.
Gary Poignant is a freelance writer and regular contributor to AlbertaPrimeTimes.com. This story was funded by the Facebook Journalism Project Supporting Local News Coverage of COVID-19 Program via the Local Media Foundation.