These last few months have been like waiting for the Berlin Wall to fall. Recently, all of our fully vaccinated guests have been patiently waiting to enter our country, but the border isn’t open. Today, the announcement was made. August 9, 2021 Canada will allow fully vaccinated Americans to enter. Hearing our Prime Minister speak reminded me of Guenter Schabowski’s words about the Berlin Wall coming down, “Immediately!” If only we were so lucky! We’ll have to wait a few more weeks for August 9, 2021 to arrive. For those of us in the tourism industry, this will be a day of celebration as we start to welcome visitors from other countries again.

Owning a travel company during a pandemic hasn’t been easy. It’s been frustrating, scary, exhausting and downright painful. Everything was constantly changing. It was the year of the Great Pivot. Luckily, we did it, we pivoted many times and we made it to the other side. I’m not going to say the pandemic is over, but trains are running again, guests are travelling again and we can feel the elation in our guests’ voices when we talk to them on the phone. Our phones have been ringing off the hook and guests can’t wait to come to Canada.

Today, all of us at Canada Rail Vacations were able to breathe a sigh of relief and look towards a positive future, one of international travel. Our focus recently has been on booking Canadians to travel within our own country. I feel we did a pretty good job of this. Last week, we hosted a group of 68 people from Calgary on two private Rocky Mountaineer train cars. This week we are hosting another group of 68 guests, all friends and family. After our COVID test tomorrow night, I can’t wait to hug every one of our friends for the first time in a long, long time. We’ll be posting photos of this journey on our social media channels.

Looking back on the pandemic, I look at the few positives I have learned from it. We learned to work less, we learned to work focused, we learned to have fun when we could and we have grown together, tighter as a company because of it. We are a very close group and we can call this a family business, because we really feel like family now. I have learned from the mistakes of our pre-pandemic ways. Back then, my goal was to be open 364 days per year, every day from 07:00 am to 21:00 pm. I realize now that our staff would rather work a focused day and spend more time playing golf, riding bikes, skiing, walking their dogs or listening to music. I don’t want our staff to feel trapped by their work. I want them to be able to enjoy their hobbies and look after our customers in their spare time.

As for our customers, it is a good time to come to Canada. With the first few guests coming in, I’ve found everyone takes more time to look you in the eye, when you ask, “How are you?” They stop and give you a heartfelt answer. While many companies are struggling to find new staff, others who kept some good ones, are thriving. I feel very fortunate to be amongst those who survived and came out stronger on the other side. I really look forward to hosting another +10,000 people over the next 25 years. It is not my goal to become a big company. I hope to always remain a small company with a big focus on customers.

From our family to yours, I wish you a happy upcoming border re-opening as we look forward to August 9, 2021.

With hope and love,

Martin Flanagan
Canada Rail Vacations