B.C. Premier John Horgan says officials are looking at mid-June to lift restrictions on travel under the COVID-19 pandemic, but he doesn’t want to give people false hope.
Currently, the provincial government is advising people to stay close to home and only leave their communities for essential travel.
“If people want to book a spot at their favourite place in B.C., feel free to do that,” Horgan said during his weekly media availability in Victoria on Wednesday. “But there is no guarantee they will be able to get there.”
It was a more precise timeline offered for the third phase of B.C.’s reopening plan, which includes hotels, resorts, some concert venues and movie theatres, and was scheduled to roll out June to September if virus transmission rates remain low.
Hotels were never forced to close but in many cases were unable to follow the provincial guidelines around physical distancing and cleaning.
One of the challenges facing the province is a severe drop in tourism as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and the impact it will have on employment and its bottom line.
Overnight camping was restarted on June 1, and officials are encouraging people to book camp sites close to home.
“It wasn’t that long ago (that) leaders in tourism-dependent communities were telling people to stay home,” Horgan said.
“We can’t lose sight of the road we have travelled.”
B.C. is preparing to lose out on all international travelers in 2020.
Last year, the province recorded 6,213,752 overnight international visitor arrivals, including 3,980,733 from the U.S., 1,348,676 from the Asia-Pacific region, and 607,807 from Europe. Those arrivals were up 2.6 per cent over the year before.
In 2018, the tourism sector generated $20.5 billion in revenue, a 53.3-per-cent increase from a decade earlier. Tourism-related provincial tax revenue hit more than $1.7 billion.
“I think we will see domestic tourism pick up and in fact break records as British Columbians stay home,” Horgan said.
“We are going to do everything we can with an aggressive promotion campaign in the days ahead to encourage people to visit every corner of B.C. if they have the time to do so.”
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