Dear 2020: So long, farewell, au revoir, adios. Scram.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
The year of the coronavirus crisis will be one to remember and one to forget.
For those in the travel industry, one of the hardest hit sectors during the global pandemic, it’s a year marred by tough situations and even tougher questions.
Do I stay in the industry, or do I move on? How will I pay my employees? How will I pay myself? When will I be able to get back to selling travel?
As strict travel restrictions remain in place, as lockdown measures tighten, and as COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the world, many of these questions still, unfortunately, do not have solid answers.
“2020 was a tough year for everyone,” says Uguette Chiasson, President and CEO of Pax Global Media Inc. “We all had to act very quickly and change the way we worked to adapt to this situation and avoid losing our businesses.”
But there’s glimmers of hope out there, reminding us all that travel still has a heartbeat.
Since the summer, airlines and tour operators have gradually resumed service to destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, unveiling reimagined vacations that have given sun-seeking Canadians some choice in the market.
While Canada’s 14-day quarantine order – arguably one of the biggest barriers to selling travel right now – remains in place, the federal government is (slowly) warming up to the idea of implementing rapid testing at borders to reduce quarantine times.
Alberta’s COVID-19 testing initiative at Calgary International Airport and the Coutts land border, a pilot project the province launched in partnership with the Government of Canada, is a prime example of this.
The travel industry can only hope that this initiative, which has kickstarted some confidence in travel, will expand across Canada in 2021.
Thanks to science-based quarantine studies by Air Canada, WestJet and others, the research is there.
And then, of course, there’s the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine – the light that flickers in the far (but not so far) distance of this dark and dreary tunnel.
If the latest studies are correct, more Canadians will resume their travel activities once a vaccine is safe and secure in their arms.
For PAX, as Canada’s leading travel trade news outlet, it’s been a “generous” year for stories, says Quebec-based journalist Serge Abel-Normandin, managing editor of PAX’s French site PAX Nouvelles.
“Since March, it’s been one drama after the other. Bad news rushes through the gate. There’s been no shortage of material,” says Abel-Normandin.
However, as one who closely watches every move, action and deed within the industry, Abel-Normandin says he can’t help but feel at one with everyone’s struggles.
“Let’s hope that 2021 will be a year filled with good news – one that doesn't make the headlines, but warms your heart,” he says.
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, the PAX team has been committed to providing the industry with the most up-to-date news coverage, posting breaking news, as it happens, and providing context and clarity to an unprecedented global event.
The news cycle has been unrelenting and heavy (in the best of times), but we’ve adjusted accordingly, turning our home kitchens and bedrooms into 24-hour newsrooms, all the while ensuring travel advisors still have a platform to express their voice.
The demand to get an accurate sense of how COVID-19 is impacting the travel industry is intense, which is why PAX, in November, decided to start travelling again so we could get an on-the-ground look at how airlines, resorts and destinations are adapting to today’s new normal – beyond the press releases.
PAX’s recent 24-day tour of the Dominican Republic, an assignment that explored health and safety protocols at eight different all-inclusive resorts, is one example of our strategy, which recently caught the attention of one mainstream national news outlet.
But here at Pax Global Media, we’ve had to make some tough decisions, too.
As a company in operation for almost 30 years, PAX, over these past several months, has had to press pause on some projects.
Our monthly print edition, Pax magazine, for one, is not being published at this time. Pax Bottin, our annual business directory, and PAX News West, our Western Canada edition, are also on hiatus. However, PAXnews.com, PAXNouvelles.com, Quick Presse and Pax Travel Jobs continue to stay strong and active.
“We sincerely hope that 2021 will be a year of economic recovery for the industry, and that each of us will regain our work rhythm,” says Chiasson. “We love our clients so much.”
“For 2021, I hope for peace, happiness and prosperity – we all deserve it.”
Michael Pihach, managing editor for PAXnews.com, calls 2020 “the year of the travel advisor.”
“Travel advisors answered the call in March when they repatriated stranded clients as borders began to close. They’ve spent almost the entire year – working for free – cancelling and rebooking trips, processing travel credits and fielding refunds.”
“The value of working with a travel professional was never more obvious this year.”
Looking ahead at 2021, the fate of many travel agencies lies in the hands of the Trudeau government, suggests Pihach, as Ottawa prepares a potential bailout package for the aviation sector, a decision that is reportedly contingent on airlines refunding customers.
“Every year has a cliffhanger, and for some in the travel industry, this is it,” says Pihach, noting that unless the government protects travel agent commissions, businesses across the country could, sadly, face even more hardships in the months ahead.
“It’s a ‘time will tell’ situation,” says Pihach, who encourages travel agents to stay positive but to also “make a lot of noise” in 2021 so that their stories, at the federal level, are heard.
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA), and others who have spoken out, have, notably, worked tirelessly this year to advocate on behalf of the trade and work with suppliers to find fair solutions for everyone.
“We’re all looking forward to a better 2021 – one where, together, we can continue to achieve bigger and brighter things for our industry,” says Nancy Benetton-Sampath, vice-president - media and executive manager at Pax Global Media Inc., thanking readers and partners for their ongoing support.
Chiasson echoes that sentiment, noting how the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, in particular, “gives us a lot of hope.”
“We’re trying to put 2020 behind us and look to the future, positively,” she says.
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