Ottawa tourism businesses are seeing high traffic this weekend — the first since Ontario entered the third phase of its reopening plan, according to some tour operators.
"It's starting to improve," said Étienne Cameron, manager of Lady Dive Tours, a company that offers guided tours of the federal capital aboard its red buses that travels on water.
The "Amphibus" was traveling at full capacity Sunday, Cameron told Radio-Canada. Tourist buses, however, can only be filled to 50 per cent under current rules, Cameron added.
"It is heartwarming to see people starting to rediscover Canada ... and do new things again," he said, adding that he hadn't seen such high ridership for a long time.
However, during a typical year, the numbers are much higher during Colonel By Day long weekend.
President of the Ottawa and Gatineau Hotel Association Steve Ball estimates that accommodation establishments in the area are operating at 70 to 80 per cent capacity this long weekend. Sunday was expected to be the busiest night for hoteliers, he said.
"Is it back to the levels we need to find, those of 2019? We're not even close. But there is a real sense of recovery," Ball said.
Mackenzie-Breeze Bone, a guide for The Original Haunted Walk of Ottawa, said the high traffic isn't just due to the long weekend.
"During the week, we are very busy," she said.
She stressed that physical distancing rules mean that customers might sometimes be refused entry due to high demand.
On Sunday, Radio-Canada was able to meet several visitors in downtown Ottawa, who had a smile on their face despite the gloomy weather.
"Today is a very pleasant day even with the rain. It feels good," said tourist Stéphane Côté, who came from Casselman, Ont.
"It's as if I had come out of a cave after a year and a half like a polar bear. It feels good to see people, to see restaurants open," said Ray Hagh from Montreal.