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Banff ‘ready to welcome visitors back’ as Alberta eases COVID-19 restrictions

Banff’s mayor discusses relaunch strategy
Banff Mayor Karen Sorenson joins Global News Morning Calgary live via Skype to discuss the town’s relaunch strategy for next month.

The mayor of Banff says the idyllic mountain town is once again welcoming tourists two months after declaring a state of local emergency amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Tuesday, Karen Sorenson thanked Calgarians and residents in neighbouring communities for respecting the town’s request that visitors stay away as they worked to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We needed time to prepare and we’re feeling really good about that now,” Sorenson said. “We are ready to welcome visitors back.”

READ MORE: Banff declares a state of emergency amid coronavirus pandemic

The Town of Banff declared a state of local emergency in mid-March due to COVID-19, imposing restrictions on local businesses and organizations.

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Since then, Sorenson said they had been trying to limit the number of visitors to the community.

However, on Tuesday, she said people can now “get in [their] cars and come” to the town.

She clarified that Banff National Park won’t have any services available until early June, and it’s just the town of Banff that is open for business.

READ MORE: Banff’s economy ‘devastated,’ mayor says, but community rallying together

Sorenson said some, but not all, of the hotels and shops in Banff are open.

“We recommend that people call first and that they’re very well prepared,” Sorenson said, adding that visitors are asked to bring their own masks and sanitizer.

“We feel we are prepared to allow for great social distancing but we will be monitoring it and we don’t want to take a step back,” Sorenson added.

“And of course, if you’re not feeling well, please do not come.”

READ MORE: Parks Canada releases full list of national parks partially reopening on June 1

Sorenson acknowledged that restrictions put in place in Banff and throughout Alberta due to COVID-19 have impacted the town’s tourism industry.

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“Looking further down the road as to what tourism will look like, more than 50 per cent of our visitors come from outside of Canada, so regardless of the fact that we are welcoming people, it’s going to be a very different Banff this summer.

“It’s going to look different and it might feel different … But it’s still going to be awe-inspiring.”

Banff’s economy devastated by COVID-19 crisis
Banff’s economy devastated by COVID-19 crisis

Section of Banff Avenue closed for Summer 2020

Visitors to Banff can expect some changes in traffic this spring and summer.

Banff Avenue is currently being repaved between Buffalo Street and Wolf Street and from Badger Street to the town boundary.

Work is expected to wrap up by May 29, but the Banff.ca website warns the repaving is weather dependent and could potentially last longer.

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In addition, Sorenson revealed Tuesday there will be long-term closures on Banff Avenue later this year.

“Council just made a decision yesterday that they will be closing our 100 block and 200 block of Banff Avenue to vehicular traffic for this summer,” Sorenson added. “That won’t start until June 5 and will go until September.”

She said the intention of the closure is to give “lots of space for social distancing and for pedestrian flow.”

How the town of Banff is coping almost a month after declaring a local state of emergency
How the town of Banff is coping almost a month after declaring a local state of emergency