B.C. tourist towns hopeful that eased restrictions will allow more travel

·3 min read
Communities like Ucluelet, B.C., pictured, are hopeful that travel restrictions in the province will be eased in coming weeks so British Columbians can make plans to travel to those areas this summer. (Justin McElroy/CBC - image credit)
Communities like Ucluelet, B.C., pictured, are hopeful that travel restrictions in the province will be eased in coming weeks so British Columbians can make plans to travel to those areas this summer. (Justin McElroy/CBC - image credit)

The May long weekend is often considered the kick-off to tourism season in many B.C. towns, but restrictions from the provincial health officer mean that tourism season has been delayed for a second year.

On Tuesday, health officials are expected to provide details on the future of travel, indoor dining and other restrictions after the latest "circuit breaker" restrictions end at midnight. Leaders in towns that rely on tourism are hopeful the announcement will mean a more fruitful summer for their businesses.

Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel hopes travel will be more widely allowed and encouraged on Vancouver Island.

"Definitely the business community, the accommodation and the restaurants and the activity providers are definitely, you know, there's financial stretches for them," Noel said.

"They're at their breaking point, I guess."

He said that while other B.C. communities inland still see people passing through on essential travel, Ucluelet doesn't have that luxury.

"You don't accidentally come to the west coast. It's a purposeful drive," Noel said.

Salmo Mayor Diana Lockwood is also hoping travel restrictions will be eased within the province, and also between Canada and the U.S. at some point soon.

"We've got a lot of people that want to go down into the States and we've got people that want to come back [up] from the States," said the mayor of the West Kootenay village.

She said residents have stayed local and spent money at local businesses and so her community isn't in dire straits — but people are ready to get moving.

"Our hope is that our numbers are actually going down, that we can start at least moving within our province again and start being a tourist in our own province," Lockwood said.

People eat inside a restaurant in Vancouver's Gastown, Salmo Mayor Diana Lockwood wants to see indoor dining restrictions lifted this week as tourist towns hope for a busy summer.
People eat inside a restaurant in Vancouver's Gastown, Salmo Mayor Diana Lockwood wants to see indoor dining restrictions lifted this week as tourist towns hope for a busy summer.(Ben Nelms/CBC)

In Golden, Mayor Ron Oszust said that although the long weekend has been slower than usual, there's still been a noticeable number of vehicles passing through heading toward outdoor activities.

"No one is actively encouraging visitations," he said.

"But at the same time, the businesses, especially the restaurants and bars, are struggling, and there's the need for financial survival."

He hopes that at some point this summer travel restrictions will loosen so his community will feel comfortable welcoming tourists from other parts of B.C. and Canada to the area.

"We need to really be respectful of the existing health orders and travel restrictions and at the same time, we need to survive," Oszust said.

Lockwood said she'd like to see indoor dining restrictions lift, especially as rain fell in much of B.C. on Monday.

"There's not a lot of people sitting outside," she said.

Festival organizers holding out hope

Though many event organizers throughout the province have already made the choice to go virtual for the second year in a row, some are waiting for news that they may be allowed to host some sort of outdoor event in coming months.

Deddy Geese, director of the Maple Ridge Caribbean Festival, has not yet cancelled the event which typically takes place during the B.C. Day long weekend.

"I personally find the second time around, you know, people get pandemic fatigue, you know, for online events of which there are so many of them out there," he said.

"That's why we're just holding out until the very end to see if we can pull it off, even reduce it to one day."

Though the Victoria Jazz Fest has announced it will be an online event this summer, artistic director and festival producer Darryl Mar is looking to Tuesday's announcement for guidance on whether they can proceed with a series of pop-up performances in downtown Victoria at some point.

He also wants to see more information about audience capacity for indoor and outdoor venues.

"Otherwise, all our activities will be focused on a complete reopening in the new year," he said.

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