A new tourist attraction is coming to Montreal in form of an aquarium

The future Aquarium de Montréal will lead by innovation, combining spectacular habitats and unique immersive experiences for guests of all ages and abilities. Image rendering provided by Aquarium de Montréal. (CNW Group/Groupe Écorécréo Inc.)

Originally conceived as part of Expo 67, when the Montreal Aquarium closed in 1991, the city has been without a similar attraction, but a future aquarium is planned to open next year as part of the new Royalmount shopping and residential development.

Montreal-based Ecorecreo Group announced Tuesday that it will be leading the development and operation of the future Aquarium de Montréal, scheduled to open in 2024.

Ecorecreo operates in several locations across Quebec, mostly renting outdoor recreational equipment at places like Montreal’s Old Port  and Parc Jean-Drapeau.

“Our vision of the Aquarium de Montréal is to create an unforgettable journey that celebrates healthy marine and freshwater environments, while also highlighting uncompromised animal care and the importance of conservation action,” says Nicolas Gosselin, General Manager of Aquarium de Montréal.

“The Ecorecreo Group’s commitment to the welfare of animals will be led by an expanding team experienced in providing for animal well-being through enriching, positive behavioral care and stimulating environments. Likewise, forming credible science, education, and conservation partnerships is key to our mission, such as the relationship we have initiated with Dr. Claire Vergneau-Grosset, Professor in Zoological Medicine at Université de Montréal,” adds Gosselin.

Vergneau-Grosset, who specializes in research for the conservation of endangered species of fish and reptiles said she was thrilled to be forging a relationship with Aquarium de Montréal.

“We share the same desire to address urgent environmental issues and the conservation of endangered species, whether here in Montreal or elsewhere on the planet.”

For more information on the project, visit www.aquariumdemontreal.com.

Saluting our beleaguered travel agents on National Travel Advisors Day

Travel the World

The past year plus has been a hard one for the world’s travel agents so it seems fitting to tip our caps to them on this year’s National Travel Advisor Day.

In 2019, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) announced that May 1 would be designated National Travel Advisor Day, sharing the date with not just May Day, but Beer Pong Day, Join Hands Day,  National Bombshells’ Day, National Chocolate Parfait Day, National Fitness Day, National Loyalty Day, National Mother Goose Day, National Scrapbook Day, Silver Star Service Banner Day  and a day honouring another underappreciated group, School Principals’ Day.

It’s easy enough to get lost in all of the other self-designated holidays, but the problem this year is that some sources are saying that the day to recognize advisors is May 6 and ASTA itself is stating it’s May 5. No matter what date you choose, these hard-working advisors have been doing their best to help the travelling public navigate the confusing web of rules and regulations that have been spawned by the pandemic.

Worse for them, they’ve been particularly hard hit by the travel slowdown as virtually no one has been going anywhere for the past year, but there is hope on the horizon as more people get vaccinated.

When the first lockdowns struck last year, many travellers who had booked their own trips discovered how difficult it was to get any kind of refunds. Those who had worked with advisors were more successful because they had somebody on their side that understood the system. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that travel advisors still have value in an era of online self-service and it will be worth your time to seek out their expertise when you start travelling again after its over.

Canadian travellers want vaccination passports, but they’ll have to wait

Vaccine passport

While  the European Union’s parliament debates its vaccine passport Wednesday, Canadian travellers are clamouring for similar documentation, but it seems that they’ll have to wait until more of their fellow citizens are vaccinated.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu told CBC News Tuesday that Ottawa is more focused on defeating the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic than prioritizing recreational travel.

“Our focus is making sure Canadians are safe and healthy, and our response will continue to be based on science and evidence,” said a statement from Hajdu’s office.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Tuesday that Canadians can expect some sort of vaccination certification for future travel, but gave no other details.

“As was the case pre-pandemic, certificates of vaccination are a part of international travel to certain regions and are naturally to be expected when it comes to this pandemic and the coronavirus. How we actually roll that out in alignment with partners and allies around the world, it’s something that we’re working on right now,” said Trudeau.

Canada’s partners and allies are not necessarily doing the ame thing, which is slowing down any adoption of a universal standard for vaccine documentation. Global airline industry body IATA is testing a digital travel pass while the EU has its own system. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom announced Wednesday that it will use its National Health Service phone app as its COVID-19 ‘vaccine passport‘ certificate.

The Montreal Economic Institute is calling for Canada to adopt a non-mandatory, decentralized vaccine passport.

“It’s even more important to have a vaccine passport given that it will likely be impossible for Canadians to travel outside the country without one,” said economist Miguel Ouellette, the Director of Operations and Economist at the MEI.

A new Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum found widespread support around the world for vaccine passports. On average, about three in four adults across 28 countries agree that COVID-19 vaccine passports should be required for travellers to enter their country and that they would be effective in making travel and large events safe.

About two in three say the documents should be required to access large public venues. On the other hand, only about half agree they should be required for shops, restaurants, and offices.

The survey questioned 21,000 adults between March 26 and April 9, 2021.

Canadian travellers skip hotel quarantine by crossing land border by taxi, but will the loophole last?


When Canada introduced mandatory hotel stays for arriving air passengers in February,  but not for land travellers, it quickly became obvious that people would exploit that loophole.

And that’s exactly what’s happening as media reports indicate that the taxi business has been booming at the United States-Canada border for the past several weeks. Much of it is fueled by returning snowbirds, but it’s also being exploited by other international travellers as well.

“They call from six in the morning to 12 at night,” John Arnet, general manager of 716 Limousine in Buffalo, N.Y. told Reuters. “We’ve had so many requests for border crossings that we’re turning them down.”

Even though the Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential traffic for 14 months, returning Canadians have the right enter the country, but are required to isolate at home for 14 days when they do so.

With COVID numbers continuing to surge across Canada, it’s unknown whether the border taxi business will continue to boom as premiers are agitating to close the loophole.

In a joint letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week the premiers of Ontario and Quebec said that Canada should “roll out further protective actions at the Canada-U.S. land border,” which could potentially mean tougher quarantine measures for non-essential travellers.

New Brunswick has already enacted a seven-day hotel quarantine for any non-essential travellers entering the province, whether it be by land, air or sea.

Florida’s Kennedy Space Center is open and ready to inspire the next generation of astronauts

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center

Depending on your age, a visit to Kennedy Space Center in Florida can either ignite new dreams of being an astronaut or revive old ones that never really went away.

Those of us old enough to remember the grainy TV footage of the first astronauts walking on the moon, can relive those memories when we tour the popular Florida attraction, but for younger guests, a visit to KSC can be a lot more profound. For many, it will inspire a lifelong interest in space and science and some of them may even be lucky enough to become astronauts themselves.

“We want young students to come to the Kennedy Space Center and try the Shuttle Launch Experience, visit our Mars galleries and get a feel for what we’re doing, because I want them excited, just like I got excited as a young boy to go into space myself,” said Don Thomas, a former astronaut who flew on four Space Shuttle Missions in the 1990s. 

“We always tell the students, ‘we need you,’ said Thomas during an online appearance at this year’s virtual version of Florida Huddle, the state’s official travel trade show that showcases the Sunshine State to international and domestic tour operators, wholesalers and media.

“We’re building these new rockets and designing new spacesuits at NASA and habitats for Mars, but we’re going to need our next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts ready. That’s why it’s so important to get our young students excited.”

Located just an hour from Orlando, KSC is one of the state’s premier family tourist attractions and while it was closed for a brief period at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it reopened in May 2020 with strict health protocols in place and some modifications to its operations. For example, the bus tours and Apollo/Saturn V Center remain closed, but there are many other elements that remain open such as the popular Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit that lets people get up close to the famous spacecraft.

“You can almost reach out and touch it,” said Thomas. “You can get that close so that you really get a good view of how huge the Space Shuttle. Atlantis flew on 33 missions so you can see the discolouration from the burning as it’s coming in through the atmosphere. It’s quite emotional, even moving, to see it in person.”

Astronaut Don Thomas
Former astronaut Don Thomas hopes a visit to Kennedy Space Center will inspire kids to want to become astronauts in the same way the space race inspired him when he was young.

Visitors can also participate in a simulated Space Shuttle Launch which Thomas says is pretty close to the real thing, minus one important element. 

“You can get a pretty good feel for what a launch is like on the Shuttle Launch Experience. They’ll strap you in your seat; it’ll rock and roll; you’ll hear the roar of the engines. I tell people the only difference between the Shuttle Launch Experience and the real mission — that is that fear factor.” 

There are several other simulators scattered throughout the centre that visitors can experience along with attractions like the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Heroes and Legends hall which explore the early days of space exploration, but Thomas thinks the NASA Now + Next zone is the most exciting. This is where visitors can immerse themselves in the science of the International Space Station and what NASA is planning for the future, including its imminent return to the moon and eventual journeys to Mars. The centre-piece of this exhibit is a full-scale model of the Orion capsule which will take astronauts to those distant destinations. 

Thomas spoke about the timeline of the Artemis missions to the moon and thinks that if all goes according to plan, Artemis 3 will land two astronauts on the south pole of the moon in 2024. 

“Fifty years ago, we landed 12 Americans on the moon. They were all men and this mission, just four years away, we’re going to land the first woman on the moon, and also, the next man,” said Thomas. “Just four years away from the first woman on the moon. I think that’s incredibly exciting. I know I’m going to be down at the Kennedy Space Center to watch that launch as they leave for the moon.”

For more information about Kennedy Space Center, visit https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com