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‘Good news’: Businesses eagerly await re-inflation of Atlantic travel bubble

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Northern New Brunswick communities hope for ‘bubble relief’' COVID-19: Northern New Brunswick communities hope for ‘bubble relief’
WATCH: Northern New Brunswick communities hope for ‘bubble relief’ – Mar 20, 2021

Dubbed a success story when first inflated, businesses are eager to return to the Atlantic regional travel bubble.

The four Atlantic premiers have stated the bubble, which removes the need for self-isolation during travel within the region, would return by April 19 “conditional upon COVID-19 case numbers remaining low in the region, containment of outbreaks, and ongoing advice from Atlantic Chief Medical Officers of Health.”

Monica Read, the owner of The Little Hair House in Sackville, N.B., says nearly 30 per cent of her clients live in neighbouring Nova Scotia, but border restrictions have actually been a double-edged sword.

Read more: Atlantic bubble returning by April 19 as long as COVID-19 numbers remain low

“It’s slowed things down of course because people can’t come over, but I also have picked up other clients here in Sackville that can’t go to their hairdresser in Nova Scotia,” Read says.

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The previously bubble made work at the salon “crazy busy,” she says. And the phone has already been ringing after the premiers announced the pending return Thursday.

“I’ve had people in Amherst call to tentatively book and I’ll be excited to see them,” she says.

Another business eager to have the bubble reinstated is the Tattingstone Inn in Wolfville, N.S., which has felt the blow of lack of international tourism.

Co-owner Erika Banting hopes last year’s bubble success will repeat itself.

“We saw a significant increase of New Brunswick visitors, specifically,” Banting says of the bubble’s impact, “double from 2019 to last year in 2020.”

The Atlantic Chamber of Commerce overwhelmingly supports the return of loosened restrictions.

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“This is good news,” says Brandon Ellis, the senior manager of policy. “It’s good timing which provides a level of certainty leading into this 2021 tourism season.”

But the group says businesses should have received more financial support from the provinces, especially during the height of COVID-19 measures.

“If you’re forcing businesses to close due to government-mandated restrictions, you’re essentially causing a government-mandated recession,” Ellis says.

Everyone understands health needs to come first, but businesses need help rebounding, he says.

Read more: Nova Scotia opens border with New Brunswick, lifts other COVID restrictions

Tourism towns like Lunenburg, N.S., hope the bubble will help make up some of those shortfalls.

Martin Ruiz Salvador owns four restaurants in the town, including the Salt Shaker Deli. He says local customers “have been extremely supportive” throughout the pandemic, but hopes more visitors will make a big impact.

“Opening up this early gives a lot of people time to plan,” he says. “Last year, obviously people didn’t have time to plan for the arrival of tourists, and also people didn’t have the opportunity to plan to go and be tourists.”

Meanwhile, Ron Aiken, Sackville, N.B.’s acting mayor, says the move will allow locals to have more access to grocery stores in Amherst, N.S., rather than driving to Moncton.

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For businesses, as the pending bubble nears re-inflation, optimism grows.

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