In recent weeks, the forces of reopening and the 4th wave have pulled in opposite directions, resulting in a relative stalemate. On the one hand, borders have reopened—first to U.S. travellers and then to international travellers—opening the door to a wider resumption of travel. On the other hand, a variant-driven surge in Covid-19 cases and slower pace of vaccination has resulted in consumer anxiety and hesitancy in returning to key activities.
Our updated Market Readiness Index—capturing data from more than 20 different sources, updated through mid-September—shows improvements in market readiness for the U.S. and international markets as the Access Readiness factor improved with border openings. Consumer-trend data show consumers particularly in the U.S. have resumed local and domestic travel with vigour (well, vigor). However travel-related search for Toronto and readiness for international travel are still well below pre-pandemic levels so the level of Customer Readiness remains in the yellow zone (improving but below 60%).
Closer to home, several key Customer Readiness factors that had improved steadily over the summer stalled in recent weeks. Comfort levels with eating in restaurants, shopping and attending live events has largely gone sideways, in some cases declining and in others improving marginally. In any case the momentum of improvement observed through the spring and summer has clearly waned in the wake of variant concerns.
In recent days, Ontario has added further requirements related to vaccine documentation with a first-phase implementation this week, followed by a digital tool in October. In the coming weeks we will track consumer response to these new requirements and the effect they have on Customer Readiness. Similarly over that time we will closely monitor the impact of border reopenings on the U.S. and international markets and how quickly consumers respond to the opportunity to visit Canada and Toronto once again.