By Stuart Forster
Canada has reopened its borders to UK travellers with a raft of new attractions, experiences and hotels waiting to welcome visitors.
I'm on an Icefield Discovery sightseeing flight over Kluane National Park and Reserve and through headsets dampening noise from the throbbing engine, our pilot informs us that what we can see is St Elias Icefields, the world’s largest non-polar icefield. It’s a kilometre deep and a legacy of the last Ice Age.
I peer down and spot a sapphire ice pool amid scar-like crevasses. Up ahead, the icefield curves gently into the distance like a motorway. It heads into a mountainous wilderness that’s home to creatures including Dall sheep, mountain goats and grizzly bears.
We follow the sweep of the valley then gain altitude. Ahead, virgin snow quilts a plateau beneath a row of jagged peaks. Several of the mountains in this national park rise well above 5,000 metres (16,400 ft).
The pilot points right towards Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain, then over to Mount Elias, which straddles the country’s border with the USA.
I sigh at the beauty of this remote landscape – the Yukon is a wondrous place to explore.
Ready for the UK
After more than a year of being ‘out of bounds’ to UK travellers, Canada relaxed its entry restrictions for international travellers in September.
Those who have been double vaccinated at least 14 days before entering the country will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.
Travellers must take a PCR test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure and a small number of arrivals may also be randomly selected to complete a PCR test on arrival.
It will be mandatory for passengers to provide information before and after arrival into Canada via the ArriveCAN app or web-based platform (canada.ca/ArriveCAN). The app simplifies the process of providing information and is available via the Apple Store and Google Play.
For the most up-to-date information visit travel.gc.ca/travel-covid.
Bucket list destination
“Canada is on many Brits’ bucket list of destinations, with dream experiences such as bear and whale watching, world-class train trips, and iconic spots such as the Rockies and Niagara Falls on most lists. Combine all this with a good healthcare and transport infrastructure and agents can be confident that their clients’ holiday aspirations will be well met on a trip to Canada,” says Adam Hanmer, Destination Canada’s Trade Manager.
“As the world’s second-largest country we can also guarantee space on an epic scale. Holidaymakers can connect with their more spiritual side by learning more about indigenous culture and calming their minds amid nature in its most majestic forms,” says Hanmer.
Destination Canada is planning to launch a new travel agent training programme this autumn (destinationcanada.com).
“It will educate and inform agents on the why, where and how of Canada in a fresh and engaging way. Selling Travel readers are able to sign up to a dedicated travel agents’ online training event in November to capitalise on and improve their Canada knowledge as we head into 2022,” adds Hanmer.
“Canada has wide-open spaces and has been very careful in the reopening of the borders and facilities so that travel will be safe. There will definitely be a demand for ‘big ticket’ items such as bear watching, so it’s worth emphasising that booking early for the bear viewing seasons will be very important,” says Julie Thompson, Product and Marketing Manager at Frontier Travel.
She anticipates that pent-up demand for travel will result in clients spending more on 2022 holidays, bringing travel agents opportunities to make higher commissions.
“Canada will be in demand. Key dates and activities will book up, so booking early will be paramount,” she adds.
That’s a view reiterated by Denise Hunn, Director of Canada Operations at Prestige Holidays,who notes that Knight Inlet Lodge, which offers exceptional grizzly bear viewing, is among the attractions already partially sold out for 2022. Early booking offers and competitive air fares mean holidaymakers will be able to book 2022 holidays at prices similar to 2019, making Canada one of next year’s leading long-haul destinations, she adds.
“Traditionally more of a destination for couples, Canada offers some of the best activity holidays available, so think of it for family holidays. Zip lining, wildlife viewing, canoeing or kayaking, hiking and mountain biking are just a few of the activities readily available.
“Agents should also think of Canada for winter sports. Skiers and snowboarders are desperate to get some action too. Canada has no lift lines, good value accommodation and guaranteed snow.”
Skating, snowshoeing and sleigh rides, available in every province and territory, count among alternative winter activities suitable for families.
The Malahat SkyWalk opened on Vancouver Island in July. A 35-minute drive from Victoria, the attraction spirals above fir trees for a length of 600 metres.
Its lookout, 250 metres above sea-level, offers views of the Coast Mountain Range, Saanich Peninsula and nearby islands.
Visitors can experience indigenous stories and learn about the region’s nature. Descending by a spiral slide offers an alternative to walking back down.
Also in British Columbia, the Golden Skybridge (in the Rocky Mountain Adventure Park, opened in May as Canada’s highest suspension bridge.
Pedestrians can peer into the Columbia Valley. Over 450 metres long, a zipline with waterfall views and a giant swing were added above the canyon in mid-August.
Launching in September, Indigenous Niagara Living Museum Tours see artists, historians and performers conveying aspects of the culture and history of the Niagara Falls region.
Tours provide insights into the famous waterfall’s influence on Anishaabee and Haudenosaunee identities.
This year has seen several notable hotel openings across Canada.
The Muir, an Autograph Collection Hotel in Halifax’s new waterfront Queen’s Marque district, features a speakeasy-style bar, a wellness centre plus a terrace with city views. The 109-room, five-star property displays original artworks and serves cuisine from Atlantic Canada at Drift restaurant.
Part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the Westley Calgary Downtown has reshaped 1970s office space. With 104 guestrooms, the hotel displays contemporary art and has a highly rated Mexican restaurant. The chic 112-room 1 Hotel Toronto has strong eco-credentials, including a zero-waste kitchen serving locally sourced ingredients, organic linens and stylish wooden furniture. The hotel also has a rooftop bar and pool.
Many more properties accelerated renovations over the past 18 months.
Where to book it...
Canada As You Like It 020 8742 8299
The operator’s nine-night Husky Adventures in the Yukon holiday is available from December to March. Priced from £2,789pp, the package includes international return flights, transfers to and from Whitehorse, accommodation including most meals, a sled (pulled by between three and six huskies) plus use of winter boots.