Parks Canada is not sure what to expect in terms of visitation numbers to P.E.I. parks this summer, but officials say they are hopeful for an Atlantic bubble and more travel confidence.
In an average summer, P.E.I. National Park and its beaches including Cavendish, Brackley and Greenwich would welcome more than 700,000 visitors.
Last summer, because of COVID-19 and its travel restrictions, numbers were down by 50 to 70 per cent. Most of those who did come through the park were Islanders vacationing at home, or visitors from other parts of the Atlantic bubble.
"While our visitation was low, we still had the weekend warriors — so folks would come over and spend Friday, Saturday, Sunday along the coastline here in P.E.I. National Park, and I expect we'll see much the same this year," said Tara McNally MacPhee with Parks Canada, in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's The Current host Matt Galloway.
"I expect that we might see a little more confidence in our visitors from the travelling perspective, which we're hopeful for."
Demand for campsites in the park has already been high.
Preparing staff for potential 'difficult conversations'
Parks Canada has done its summer hiring and is trying to prepare staffers, mostly young people, for any scenario. They've been practicing role-playing to anticipate "what might come through the door," she said.
"With that one-dose summer, we may see some folks who perhaps aren't wearing their mask any longer, they feel that it's safe to do that," she said.
"So preparing our staff to have those difficult conversations, I guess that's kind of what we're really focused on, and making sure they're mentally prepared for that."
McNally MacPhee said she believes there is pent-up demand to get to the beach and unwind.
"That's what we're seeing across the country — people are eager to get outside, we have great opportunities for folks to enjoy nature safely and sustainably... and really more than ever, just rest a little bit."
Last week, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said a plan to reopen the province will be presented to Islanders this Thursday.
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