VANCOUVER — The tourism sector in B.C. is exploring how to get American dollars flowing back into B.C. despite the COVID-19-related shutdown of the border.
The closure is only certain until June 21, but Walt Judas with the Tourism Industry Association of BC anticipates the ban on non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. will be extended.
“We don’t anticipate the US border to be open any time soon, according to what the health minister says. But ideally, we’d like to see ways to see how we can open that border using the proper health and safety protocols and the appropriate testing.”
Judas suggests a pilot project that would allow charter flights to bring small groups into rural and remote areas of the province.
“Ideally, we’d like to be able to put a pilot project in place somewhere in a more rural part of the province whereby you could welcome people from the U.S., albeit they would need to be tested and perhaps in self-quarantine for a time. But at the very least, they could do some of the activities that would pertain to rural British Columbia –like hiking, fishing, hunting– some of those backcountry activities that wouldn’t require direct contact with the general population.”
Meantime, Judas says the industry is also looking for some clarity from Victoria about a potential lifting of inter-provincial travel advisories to give the green light for Canadian tourists to come back to B.C.
“The entire industry is really looking forward to officially launching into Phase 3 which would intimate that people are more free to travel from region to region,” he says.
“Bookings from British Columbia will help, but they won’t pay the bills necessarily. Many operators are still not open and don’t anticipate to be open any time soon. Operators who are open now might be barely breaking even, if they’re not losing money. The industry is still very much reeling.”
He explains advocacy to the province for relief through a capital grant program that would cover fixed costs is ongoing.
The curve flattening in B.C. has given tourism businesses some hope.
“They’re optimistic that we’ll at least be able to salvage some of the summer, provided the travel restrictions are lifted within British Columbia, across Canada, and ultimately internationally.”