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Quiet Canada Day in Banff as businesses struggle to stay open

Quiet Canada Day in Banff as businesses struggle to stay open​
WATCH: Canada Day looked different this year in Banff. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, there was no parade, no fireworks and fewer people.

Canada‘s birthday celebrated in the birthplace of the country’s national parks — it seems natural to visitors who traveled to Banff on Wednesday, especially those who haven’t been to the mountain town since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Many are happy to be in the mountains despite no parade and no fireworks this Canada Day.

“[It’s] absolutely beautiful. I love the flowers. People are happier, people walking everywhere, no cars. Absolutely a good job,” said Ray Matti, who was visiting from Calgary.
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Seven $1,200 tickets given to Americans who hiked in Banff National Park in past week: RCMP
Seven $1,200 tickets given to Americans who hiked in Banff National Park in past week: RCMP

To help with social distancing, a few blocks of Banff Avenue have been shut down to vehicle traffic, a move supported by businesses like The Radiant, a new restaurant that just opened as COVID-19 hit this spring.

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

“It’s bouncing back. Shutting down Banff Avenue and making it pedestrian-friendly and patio-friendly has done wonders for all of the businesses on Banff Avenue,” chef and part-owner Ryan DeAlwis said.

“Without tourism, without travel, it’s very difficult for us to survive, especially being an independent restaurant.”

Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said the town is seeing about 40 per cent of the vehicle traffic it normally gets this time of year, adding it’s left some businesses hanging by a thread. However, she said the quiet start to the summer does allow the town to re-launch cautiously.

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“So there is some benefit to the fact we are relaunching slowly and safely. And more than anything, that is what we want,” Sorensen said.

“It would be even more devastating if we had to shut down again.”

Read more: Parks Canada says camping to resume in national parks on June 22 by reservation only

While traffic has picked up since camping opened in the park on June 22, the wet weather hasn’t helped bring people to the normally-bustling streets. And until the U.S. border reopens, it will likely remain subdued.

A quiet Banff Avenue on Canada Day 2020 is a change of pace from most years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A quiet Banff Avenue on Canada Day 2020 is a change of pace from most years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

“There have been some silver linings as the wildlife has come back into the community, but overall, particularly economically, it’s tragic,” Sorensen said.

“And we know this is not going to be over for us at the end of the summer or even in the winter, it’s a long haul.”

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Read more: Coronavirus: What does Banff look like without international tourism?

International tourism accounts for 50 per cent of Banff’s visitors