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Canadian flight bookings among lowest levels in the world: report

While countries around the world begin to see domestic travel return to pre-pandemic levels, Canadian travellers are staying home, despite surging vaccination levels.

That's according to a report from the Mastercard Economics Institute, which tracks anonymized sales activity from around the world. The report found that 20 per cent of the 32 countries included in the survey have seen domestic flight bookings return to at least 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Canada, meanwhile, has had some of the lowest travel levels in terms of domestic, international and business travel.

"While some – including the U.S., Australia and France – are exceeding pre-pandemic domestic flight bookings, others – such as Canada, Thailand and New Zealand – are at a fraction of where they were before the pandemic began," the report said.

Domestic flight bookings in Canada as of May 21 were at 28 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, while international bookings were at 18 per cent. Business travel in Canada also remains dramatically down compared to pre-pandemic levels, with corporate flight bookings at 14 per cent.

At the same time, the U.S. has seen travel rebound across all categories. Domestic flight bookings were above pre-pandemic levels, while international bookings were down just 22 per cent compared to 2019. Corporate travel in the U.S. is back up to just over half of 2019 levels.

Canada is among the many countries around the world that put travel and border restrictions in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has yet to reveal a full plan for reopening, despite the pleas of Canadian business and airline groups.

Ottawa announced earlier this month that it will loosen quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers returning to the country as of July 5, the first step in the government's plan to reopen its borders. The National Airline Council of Canada (NACC), a lobby group that represents Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Jazz Aviation, has pushed the government to implement recommendations issued by a Health Canada Advisory Panel focusing on border measures.

The Mastercard report acknowledges that travel demand will vary around the world, depending on factors such as "vaccination rates, new COVID-19 variants, and the destruction of businesses and jobs left behind from the pandemic." Still, there are bright spots when it comes to demand.

"While travellers around the globe can't yet take off for most international destinations, some are increasingly packing their bags and boarding planes for flights within their own countries," the report said.

"At the same time, while there is pent-up consumer demand for travel, there's also a real potential for a supply shortage – of long-haul planes and pilots. The recovery of travel worldwide is likely to be imbalanced, drawn out and non-linear."

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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