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Coronavirus: Shuswap experiences unusual long weekend as tourists urged to stay away

Coronavirus: Shuswap experiences unusual long weekend as tourists urged to stay away

Tourism is normally big business in the Shuswap.

However, this year, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, tourists were asked to stay home over the May long weekend and not visit the region.

It is unclear how many heeded the call to forgo non-essential travel to the area, which is well known as a tourist destination.

Some Shuswap businesses and residents reported a slower-than-usual long weekend but there were also anecdotal reports of people visiting the area.

Did message to stay home this May long weekend get through to British Columbians?
Did message to stay home this May long weekend get through to British Columbians?

The regional district chair said the decision to ask visitors to stay home was was “very difficult.”

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READ MORE: Steady traffic but reduced capacity on BC Ferries as May long weekend kicks off

“We do not want to jeopardize the effectiveness of the sacrifices we have all made over the past two months. If we can stay on track, people will be able to explore our region sooner rather than later,” Columbia Shuswap Regional District chair Kevin Flynn said in a statement.

The fact that some businesses remain closed due to the pandemic also contributed to a slower pace for many in the region this May long weekend.

At Canoe Beach, the cafe was closed and there were lots of open spaces between the small number of beach-goers on the holiday Monday.

Cafe operator Jim Dunlop said on a normal year his business would have opened at the beginning of May but this year that has been pushed back till June.

READ MORE: Winnipeg cottage country sees some travel May long weekend amid COVID-19

“My wife and I are both immunocompromised so one of the first things that we’ve had to do is kind of take a step back… and look at things and say how can we keep ourselves safe, how can we keep our staff safe and vitally how do we keep our customers safe,” Dunlop said.

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“We looked at it and said we are not prepared to open until we can say we can do all of those things.”

Dunlop’s making major changes to the beach-side cafe, including installing an intercom for ordering, to ensure physical distancing can be done.

However, business isn’t slow everywhere.

READ MORE: B.C. urged to ‘stay local’ over long weekend as coronavirus recoveries near 80%

The Demille’s Farm Market, which functions as both a tourist attraction and grocery store, reported an increase in sales compared to a normal year and lots of foot traffic.

“We have a lot of regulars and we are seeing a lot of people who are not regulars coming in,” said staff member Jacob Wituik.

“It’s just that time of year where people are trying to go out and do stuff, especially now because they have been locked up for so long.”

The regional district said it will continue to ask tourists to stay close to home until B.C. moves to the next phase of its restart plan.

That could happen as early as next month.

Canmore walking fine line supporting businesses while asking tourists to avoid town
Canmore walking fine line supporting businesses while asking tourists to avoid town