Summer holiday planning is going to be a bit tricky, given COVID-19.

Everyone wants to know: When we can travel again? Where can we go?

As one municipal official said this week, “only the virus can answer those questions.”

People with cottages appear to be the lucky ones, but rural communities and towns in cottage country have their own issues right now. They’d rather you didn’t turn up to loot their grocery stores and overwhelm the hospitals.

“The evidence is, when we don’t move, don’t travel, don’t go to the grocery store and don’t go to our second residence, we don’t spread COVID-19.”

So says Phil Harding, mayor of Muskoka Lakes.

Like other leaders in cottage country, Harding places the good health of his constituents above the economic health of the district. He and everyone else in the vacation areas of this province are begging you NOT TO GO TO YOUR COTTAGE YET.

There’s a state of emergency in Ontario, and only essential travel is permitted. That’s why the O.P.P. turned back some people sneaking up to the cottage.

Fishing season? Sure, but marinas are closed and so are many boat launches. Read the room.

In the Kawartha Lakes, mayor Andy Letham is hoping the rules might relax in July or August — if everyone toes the line. He knows people are itching to get up north.

“But you have to make sure people are acting responsibly,” he says.

Most people are doing the right thing, making the required sacrifices in this health crisis.

“But there’s always that one cottage where 20 guys are partying for a week. That’s what spoils it for everybody.”

Once it’s safe for businesses to open, it will be safe for vacationers too, says Letham.

“If we take the hardball approach now, we’re optimistic we can salvage some of the summer. But not too soon, or we’ll just extend this into the fall, and that will be even worse.”

No cottage yet, then. So, where to?

Staycation looks good.

Andrew Weir, executive VP of Tourism Toronto, figures we’ll all get reacquainted with our own cities first. (And meanwhile, he’d like you to know about, a free service listing hundreds of GTA restaurants doing take-out and delivery.)

“All of us are confined and cooped up. Demand is built up for people to enjoy their own city. That will be the first step …  locals enjoying their own cities and supporting their own businesses,” Weir said.

Domestic travel will follow. International travel? That’s a huge question mark.

“Right now, borders are closed, airlines are operating at about 5%, if at all,” says a veteran of the travel industry, who prefers not to be named. “And much is unknown: Which air routes will operate again? And when? Will travel insurance be available? What will it cost? What hotels will be up and running? What resorts? Many in this industry think it will be one of the last to recover.”

Perhaps, but over at New Wave Travel, manager Lucy Catalanotto says that she and her agents are staying positive.

“We’re hoping domestic travel will be something positive for the summer. People are really aching to do something,” Catalanotto said. “This isolation is taking a toll. People want to go away … I am very hopeful for the fall and winter.

“By then I’m sure we’ll be on a beach somewhere, lathering sunscreen all over.”

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