One travel company in Smithers is working hard to bring residebts abroad home and busy rebooking other people’s vacations amid the coronavirus crisis.
“Work is just starting,” said Bill Maskiewich of Mackenzie Travel. “It is frustrating and time consuming, but it is just the tip of the iceberg for us. I’m not looking forward to the next couple of months, it is going to be difficult.”
He said his business is already suffering.
“It is taking a huge, huge, huge hit and it will take a hit for the next couple of months. Canceling trips, rebooking,” he said. You are doing a whole bunch of work. It is like painting a room three times and only getting paid for it once.”
The company has not only been rearranging people’s travel plans but also trying to get people back to Smithers.
“I have a lady who has a daughter in Jakarta and we are trying to get her home. That is what our main focus is right now, getting people home,” he said. “It is a challenge because everyone else in the world wants to do the same thing.”
He added this is an especially tough time because people are traveling for Spring Break. “If this was delayed for even three weeks, it wouldn’t be so bad for us because a good chunk of people would’ve come and gone. The amount of people who have had to cancel vacation packages is huge.”
To make things more difficult for getting people home, Air Canada has suspended flights to most Northwest destinations for the month of April including Smithers and redirecting all passengers through the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace.
“It is asinine,” said Maskiewich. “They are still flying out of Terrace. I can see them cutting back, maybe only flying in once or twice a week, that would make more sense than cutting it off completely.”
Maskiewich has never seen anything like this before in his career.
“I remember 9-11, but just for about a week there was a hiccup. People still carried on with their daily lives. Only air travel was affected. But now travel by bus and vehicles across the borders are being stopped.”
He is worried about companies and businesses who aren’t fiscally strong enough to weather this storm.
He said it is anyone’s guess when borders will reopen again and doesn’t recommend even looking at booking anything for at least three weeks.
The Mackenzie Travel office is closed to the public, but travel agents are still working and can be reached by phone or email.