As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in the United States, most Canadians are wary of travelling south of the border.
According to a new Yahoo/Maru poll, 73 per cent of Canadians do not think it's safe to travel to or vacation in the United States due to the pandemic. While 27 per cent of all Canadians believe it's safe to travel south of the border, some provinces are more open to the idea, including in Alberta (37 per cent), Manitoba and Saskatchewan (30 per cent) and British Columbia (29 per cent).
While the federal government has loosened COVID-19 restrictions for Canadian travellers, allowing the fully vaccinated to travel abroad without having to quarantine upon return, many still plan to avoid international travel and stay in Canada over the next six months due to concerns about the pandemic.
The Yahoo/Maru poll found that about half (51 per cent) of Canadians do not plan to travel within the next six months. For those who are planning a vacation, 35 per cent say they will travel domestically within Canada, while 9 per cent plan to travel internationally outside the U.S., and 5 per cent plan to visit the U.S. Compared to before the pandemic, just 26 per cent of Canadians didn't take a vacation, while 37 per cent travelled domestically and 38 per cent internationally.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the driving force influencing Canadians' choices on travel. When asked about the top factors affecting their decision to plan a vacation, safety from COVID-19 was cited as the top factor (46 per cent), followed by price (30 per cent). Time availability (30 per cent), booking flexibility (26 per cent) and demand (12 per cent) were also cited as factors.
Maru executive vice-president John Wright says Canadians' reluctance to travel should not come as a surprise, given the approach to COVID-19 that has been taken in Canada.
"We've lived in a COVID-19 society for 16 months... and despite being the most vaccinated people on the planet, we're still incredibly concerned about variants and whether we'll catch it and become ill or just give it to someone else," Wright said.
"Given that context, there should be no surprise that safety from the COVID-19 virus – both travelling at and to any destination – is the number one element in our decision-making tree about travelling and having a vacation."
With the pandemic still weighing on Canadians' decisions about travel, it has meant the rise of road trips. One-quarter of Canadians who are planning a vacation in the next six months are opting to drive to a local destination, while 19 per cent are choosing to drive out of province. Staycations have also turned into the vacation of choice, with 29 per cent of Canadians choosing a local vacation, up 7 per cent from before the pandemic.
Wright says this presents "a huge opportunity" for the travel and tourism sector in Canada, which has struggled through the pandemic amid border closures and travel restrictions.
"Tourism operators and those who are offering the kind of experience that people are looking for in their own backyard have the greatest chance to pump life back into a sector that has been pummelled by the effects of COVID-19," Wright said.
"There are a lot of people in the travel and tourism sector who will not only welcome them with open arms, but if they're smart, they'll try to give them the best experience they're looking for – and that, in itself, may have them coming back for more next year."
The survey of 1,505 Canadian adults was conducted between July 16 and July 21 and has an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.