Canada is reopening to vaccinated American travelers next month. How much will a trip cost?
Canada has decided to open its borders to vaccinated Americans– but how much can visitors expect a trip up north to cost after more than a year of strict travel restrictions?
The Canadian government announced Monday that it would allow fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents to cross its borders, starting Aug. 9. The U.S., meanwhile, has extended the travel restrictions on its side of the border through at least Aug. 21.
Travel to Canada is expected to accelerate once restrictions ease. Here’s what experts have to say about how that shift could impact travel costs like room rates and airfare.
Hotel room rates are going up
Hotel room rates in Canada aren’t yet back to pre-pandemic levels, but they’re inching closer.
Average daily room rates in June were about $125.05 Canadian Dollars ($99.42), about 31% below rates in June 2019 but up 10% from the month prior, according to analytics company CoStar Group.
Laura Baxter, CoStar Group’s director of hospitality analytics for Canada, expects hotel rates to increase even further once border restrictions ease.
“As soon as the U.S. land border (into Canada) reopens, we believe that rates will certainly be given a boost because the demand will increase, as well,” Baxter told USA TODAY. “We do expect … quite a bit of pent-up leisure demand that will come across the border.”
Room rates in small towns and near highways are expected to see the most dramatic pricing shifts, Baxter said, since hotels in large urban markets still won’t have many business travel bookings to help fill rooms.
But “American travelers typically pay high rates, and that will certainly improve the average room rates in general in Canada,” Baxter said.
Those looking for deals on Canadian hotel rates should book soon, Baxter advised.
“The sooner, the better,” she said.
While pricing is expected to grow over time, CoStar expects the average room rates in Canada will be below pre-pandemic pricing until 2025.
US side still restricted: Couples separated by Canadian border plead for US to end travel restrictions
What will airfare to Canada cost?
It’s too early to say how the easing of border restrictions will impact airfare, according to Kent Gourdin, professor and director of the Global Logistics and Transportation Program at the College of Charleston.
“My first take is, I wouldn’t think (pricing will surge) – at least not initially,” he told USA TODAY. “But it’s too soon, and it’s too unstable (to say).”
On Saturday, pricing on flight search tool Skyscanner showed round-trip airfare from the U.S. to Vancouver starts at $251 next month. August trips to Montreal and Toronto both start at $303 and $303.
Burkett Huey, an equity analyst at research firm Morningstar, said it’s “safe to expect that the average airfares will increase from 2020 levels,” but added that it wasn’t clear how pricing later this year will compare to pre-pandemic rates.
Canada’s easing of restrictions will allow nonessential travelers in America to cross its borders by land, air or sea, but air travelers will still face COVID protocols upon reentering the U.S.
American visitors will still need to get tested no more than three days before their return trip or show proof of recovery to return to the U.S.
Airlines add flights to Canada
A number of airlines plan to increase flights to Canada as travel restrictions ease.
Air Canada, Canada’s largest international airline, announced a summer transborder schedule with up to 220 daily flights between the U.S. and Canada as of Aug. 9.
The initial schedule will include 55 routes and 34 U.S. destinations, but the airline plans to restore service to all 57 U.S. destinations previously served “as conditions allow,” according to a Monday news release.
Air Canada CEO and President Mike Rousseau said Friday the company is seeing a steady increase of transborder bookings and that Canada’s Monday announcement signaled that the industry was “turning a corner.”
“We expect the most recent announcements of the government of Canada relaxing existing measures will further help strengthen the interest of our customers in flying,” Rousseau said during a call with investors.
United Airlines, which flies to Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, said Monday it would add additional flights to Toronto and Vancouver in September.
American Airlines services four airports in Canada – Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – and is set to resume operations in Halifax, Quebec and Ottawa in the spring of 2022, according to a June statement.
Gourdin said travelers will have to wait and see if these additional flights have any impact on pricing.
“The airlines – they’re just kind of testing the waters and adding flights,” he said. “In a few months, they could cancel (flights) if the demand isn’t there.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Canada travel: How pricey are flights, hotels as Canada border opens?