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COVID-19: B.C. tourism sector anxiously awaits travel restrictions update as border still closed

Summer ‘staycations’ plans for B.C. residents
With the gradual reopening of businesses set to begin next week, many British Columbians are thinking about their summer vacation plans. So what will those plans look like? Richard Zussman reports.

If you don’t need to go out of town this May long weekend, don’t.

That’s the message from B.C. government, leading in to the unofficial kick-off to summer as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Tourism destinations face the challenge of asking potential visitors to stay away

Provincial parks are now open again, but for day use only. The province is asking people to only visit their local provincial park or recreation site.

The government is also encouraging people not to visit vacation properties, secondary homes or campsites during the long weekend. BC Ferries continues to remind customers that they should only travel if it’s essential.

But B.C.’s tourism sector is getting anxious about when people will be able widen their travel within the province.

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Tourism operators have seen a massive drop in revenues amid the pandemic, and closed borders have severely limited the number of international visitors expected this summer.

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Premier John Horgan on support for B.C. tourism industry to recover from COVID-19 crisis
Premier John Horgan on support for B.C. tourism industry to recover from COVID-19 crisis

Vancouver’s tourism sector relies heavily on the United States, with around two million visitors coming to the city every year from south of the border.

“I think it will be a real focus to look at visitors from other parts of the province, at least for the foreseeable future,” Tourism Industry Association of BC CEO Walt Judas said.

“We really need some direction on travel restrictions: When it is safe to resume traveling within a region, then between regions and ultimately when we’ll see the borders reopen.”

The U.S./Canada border is not expected to allow tourists until at least June 23.

B.C.’s struggling tourism industry
B.C.’s struggling tourism industry

The province is focusing on aggressive marketing through Destination BC to promote “stay-cations”  and encourage people to explore the four corners of British Columbia this summer.

But Premier John Horgan has said it’s too soon to start talking about how it will financially support the industry.

“It’s really difficult to talk about how we’re going to deal with July, August and September when we’re in the heart of May and trying to give the message to British Columbians that we’re not there yet,” Horgan said.

“I’m reluctant to talk about the programs we’ll be putting in place for the tourism industry.”

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