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Canadian airports saw 14-fold increase in foreign travellers after border opened: report

Click to play video: 'Travel agents report being busy as COVID-19 border restrictions ease'
Travel agents report being busy as COVID-19 border restrictions ease
WATCH: Travel agents report being busy as COVID-19 border restrictions ease – Nov 8, 2021

Canada saw a spike in the number of international travellers entering the country as it eased COVID-19 measures and reopened its borders to fully vaccinated individuals earlier this year.

New figures released Friday by Statistics Canada for the month of October, showed 263,400 non-resident arrivals at Canadian airports, representing more than a 14-fold increase compared to the same time last year.

Read more: COVID-19 travel insurance: costs, coverage and the fine print

Among those foreigners who flew in to Canada last month, 114,200 came from the United States and 149,200 from other countries.

Starting Aug. 9, Canada eased its travel restrictions — in place since March 2020 — allowing fully vaccinated Americans into the country for non-essential purposes, without having to quarantine upon arrival.

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On Sept. 7, the borders were opened further, allowing in foreign travellers from across the globe.

Under the new measures, anyone entering the country must be fully vaccinated with shots approved by Health Canada, and show proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before their scheduled flight.

Click to play video: 'Expected flood of Canadians using land crossing into U.S. border towns failed to materialize'
Expected flood of Canadians using land crossing into U.S. border towns failed to materialize

This development is no surprise, given the tremendous safeguards in place” and the national vaccination uptake — nearly 75 per cent, said Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker in Toronto.

“I think it shows confidence to travel, quite frankly, that you are coming to a country that’s incredibly safe, with vaccination levels higher than most countries in the world,” he told Global News.

“There is that peace of mind for some that the person on the plane next to them is hopefully vaccinated,” he added.

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Allowing more Canadian airports — currently 10 — to accept international flights has also contributed to a greater number of people flying in, Firestone said.

As of Nov. 30, eight more airports in Canada will be open to international travel, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced earlier this month.

Firestone said the bottom line is it’s “much easier to travel and get here” compared to a year before. “Travel is coming back bigger and better than ever,” he said.

Cross-border travel

Last month, Canadians also flew home in greater numbers compared to the same time last year. More than 480,000 Canadian residents returned by air — over eight times greater than the traffic in October 2020. But that’s still about half the number from pre-pandemic levels from October 2019, the StatCan report states.

Read more: U.S. border has reopened to Canada. What you need to know before you travel

Since Canada reopened its land border with the U.S., arrivals by car have also picked up.

According to StatCan, U.S. residents took 412,200 trips to Canada in August. That number reflects more than double the land traffic in July — the highest since the pandemic began in March 2020.

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However, U.S. land arrivals into Canada dipped in October to 292,200 trips.

Click to play video: 'Tourism industry calls for end of PCR test requirements'
Tourism industry calls for end of PCR test requirements

Meanwhile, there were 207,600 Canadian residents who returned from the United States by car last month.

But since the U.S. land border was closed to Canadians until Nov. 8, Firestone said many of his snowbird clients had to fly down and make provisions to get their cars shipped or rent vehicles.

Read more: Canada looking ‘quite carefully’ at PCR testing rules as U.S. land border reopens

While there is greater demand to travel than earlier in the pandemic, Firestone said incurring the cost of a PCR test — as much as $200 — to come back into Canada is preventing many Canadians from going away.

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The lack of COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of 12 in Canada is another barrier.

“Since children under 12 are unvaccinated, you still have to quarantine when you come back,” said Firestone.

“That’s creating tremendous hesitancy among families going anywhere over the holiday season.”

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