Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Jan 25, 2021

Eager for recovery

Tour operators working hard to adapt to the new world of travel


Be it ever so humble, there’s no place for Intrepid Travel to promote like home – especially during a global pandemic that’s dramatically curtailed international travel, says the managing director of North America for the tour operator.

The tour company has clearly been reaching out to those wanting to travel but are wary of crossing international borders while the coronavirus pandemic continues, Matt Berna says.

“As we start the new year, we’ve seen a continued interest in domestic travel,” he reports. “Last year, we looked at ways we could repurpose our tours amidst these unprecedented times. Intrepid Travel added over 70 domestic tours to its product range, with nearly 25% of the tours including indigenous-led experiences to support local communities and businesses that have been impacted by Covid-19 while allowing travellers to get a better sense of their country.”

Berna says the tours adhere to government safety guidelines and are updated “as we actively and immediately” adapt to any new coronavirus developments.

“The innovative and confidence measures we have adopted to bolster our already stringent operations standards have made a considerable impact and now sales momentum is growing, with small-group bookings leading the charge. We are on track to reinitiate partner marketing partner marketing programs and campaigns to support the increasing sales.”

Stephanie Bishop, who oversees the Globus family of brands’ operation in this country, says that company is looking for a significant tourism turnaround halfway through 2021.

“We hope to be back on track with travel recovery by this summer and early fall in 2021,” she says. “Before we can make big strides, however, we need some consistency in the industry – from testing and vaccine requirements to the opening of borders. We also need our government – as well as those across the globe – to recognize the travel industry as a whole and the impact that protocols and decisions have on a broader scale. It’s increasingly important to take steps forward (we’d prefer leaps).”

Despite a truly tough 2020 for tourism, Bishop makes it clear there are now positive developments. “Last year, when the pandemic hit, the unknowns seemed daunting. For 2021, we know so much more,” she says. “We know how COVID-19 is spread, how to test for it, what to do if/when we have a positive case, how to keep others safe And, best of all, we know there are approved vaccines that Canadians across the country are receiving. And that – along with all of the other knowns, and the countless plans, protocols and assurances we have put in place for travellers – gives us a bright light at the end of what has felt like a long tunnel.

“We also know that people miss travel. They’re ready – and excited – to travel again. They’re looking forward to booking their journey when the world opens up. And our robust sales force, who has stayed engaged with travel advisors, is ready to rebuild for the future. We stand together in our efforts.”

“I’m not nervous about the future of travel or how it’s evolved in light of this pandemic. The future of travel is bright. Now, I’m anxious to continue on the road back. To see more headway with consistent, national and international health and safety protocols and to enjoy the opening of borders sooner than later. The demand – and excitement – for travel is palpable.”

“It’s true that 2020 was pretty terrible when it came to actually having the opportunity to travel, but it also gave us time to innovate, change and evolve as a travel company. And because of that, we’re presenting travellers with better options for 2021.”

Bishop notes the Globus family of brands has launched Small-Group Discoveries worldwide; Private Touring for both Globus and Cosmos, and unveiled more off-the-beaten-path vacations across all brands. It’s also bolstered “off-season” travel options through Escapes by Globus and Monograms. “And, of course, we’ve placed a spotlight on the extraordinary adventures that are available to travellers in our own backyard,” she adds. “All of that work in 2020 will help us enjoy what’s next in 2021 and beyond. We created our own silver lining around what has been a dark cloud.”

Brad Ford, who heads the Canadian operations of both Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, is applauding a number of positive developments for the tourism industry, such as vaccine development and a longing to be able to travel that exists among tour operator clients.

“Our travel advisor partners are prepared for the shift as premium and luxury travel segments lead the way,” Ford continues. “Our local journeys have successfully launched in Australia and trips departing in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2021 have promising demand, with global journeys ready to depart as soon as we have local governmental go-ahead.”

Ford says travellers will increasingly opt for “meaningful, immersive” travel experiences and The Travel Corporation brands will “continue to prioritize journeys that make travel matter for people, the planet and wildlife.”

Berna in turn says that his company has during the past year noticed growing interest in the likes of travel featuring hiking or cycling in natural settings, enabling those travellers to reduce their carbon emissions and support local communities on vacations that allow people to “escape the bustling city and homes they have been confined to all year to reconnect with the world’s wondrous” wildlife.

Meanwhile, all three companies are quick to praise travel agents for their efforts during the pandemic.

“On behalf of our entire Globus family of brands team, I want to salute travel advisors,” Bishop says. “It takes courage, collaboration, character and commitment to stay focused, patient and persistent. We will conquer – together – what, at times, has felt like an impossible mountain to climb. We’re on our way to the top and look forward to celebrating our shared tenacity on the other side.”

“To all of you in the travel industry, I want to thank you for putting the well-being of your clients, your partners and your peers at the forefront of your work, often dealing with extremely difficult situations. On behalf of Intrepid, we remain dutiful in our partnership with you as we continue. We are here to support you in any way we can and we want to thank you for all you do,” Berna says.

“There is strength in partnership and as always travel agents are at the center of our business growth strategy,” Ford adds. “We are here to support you every step of the way in your rebuilding. Stay positive and stay healthy. This too shall pass and we will come back with vigor.”