The Victoria Day long weekend is typically the kickoff to camping season in Nova Scotia and throughout Canada.
However, this camping season is still riddled with uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only for campers eager to get outside and enjoy some fresh air but for private campground owners who help fuel local economies.
“We’re still a fairly new business and we really needed to have this year and we’re stringent on cleanliness and social distancing, but the government has mandated that it stay closed,” Kim Venter said, co-owner of Norse Cove Camping.
“So it’s a little hurtful with the border closures right now. We’re seeing most of our long-term bookings have cancelled already,”
Venter and her husband own and operate Norse Cove Camping on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. The couple has been slowly building their business over the past few seasons and had high hopes of the 2020 camping season generating a return on their investments.
Venter says the campground doesn’t have any seasonal campers, they bulk of their business comes from campers travelling from Europe, or other parts of Canada and the United States.
However, with the provincial and Canadian border closed, Venter says they’ve already lost thousands of dollars in cancellations.
“We’re talking, 10, 20, 30 thousand dollars that we’re going to lose in potential sales for this summer and we don’t qualify for any of the programs that are currently available because we don’t employ enough people,” Venter said.
Tourism Minister Geoff MacLellan says government discussions around how to salvage the season are happening on a regular basis.
“We understand the looming fear and the looming uncertainty and the potential effects of what a tourism season could be the longer we go but the reality is we’ve got to be led by the public health orders,” he said.
MacLellan says an overall plan for recovering the tourism season will be dependent on when border changes are made around non-essential travel.
“We don’t go anywhere from a tourism perspective rebuild unless the borders are open and we have our controls around what we do in Nova Scotia but other provinces have an impact on that, the U.S. has a tremendous impact, what we gleam from the Northeastern market place in terms of tourism traffic is huge. So, we have no ability to decide what that’s going to look like either,” MacLellan said.
Venter says because their small business didn’t qualify for any of the support programs, they had to take out a loan which they’ll have to pay back with interest.
Her hope is that public health controls will be put into place to allow private campgrounds to open their doors safely.
Even if it’s only to fellow Nova Scotians.
“Tourism is a huge part of the business on the Eastern Shore. So as much as we do want to stay safe, we have to keep in mind that we also have to save our economy and we have to keep people working, and keep people in jobs, and allow people to be outdoors in a safe environment,” she said.