Both Alberta and British Columbia released their provincial reopening plans earlier this week as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to ramp up.
Both strategies are tied to vaccine uptake, while monitoring COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. While the benchmarks look similar, the opening phases differ.
B.C.’s Restart: A Plan to Bring Us Back Together is made up of four steps. Step 1 was reached on May 25 when at least 60 per cent of the 18+ population had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Step 4, the final step, could be reached Sept. 7, at the earliest. It would require more than 70 per cent of the 18+ population to have at least one dose.
Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan is made up of three stages. Stage 1 will begin on June 1, two weeks after 50 per cent of the 12+ population received their first dose and since hospitalizations are below 800 and declining. Stage 3, where all restrictions would be lifted, could be reached as early as June 28, two weeks after 70 per cent of the 12+ population receives their first dose. There would be no official hospitalization threshold in the final stage.
Premier Jason Kenney referenced travel during Stage 3 on Wednesday’s announcement.
“We’ll also welcome back at domestic and international visitors to Alberta to experience everything that our great province has to offer.
“But of course, the federal government will continue to have ultimate authority over international travel protocols.”
Alberta has never put travel restrictions in place, instead encouraging only essential travel.
B.C. took it a step further.
In April, signs were placed along the Alberta border reminding travellers that coming to B.C. should only be for essential reasons.
Within the province, recreational travel is only allowed within your region. This will be in place under the Emergency Program Act Ministerial Order No. M212 until June 15 at midnight.
B.C.’s Restart Plan doesn’t permit recreational travel from outside the province until Stage 3, which the province indicates won’t come until July 1 at the earliest.
Like many other industries, the tourism sector took a hit during the pandemic.
As long as travelling can be done safely, Tourism Lethbridge is happy to welcome visitors from outside Alberta.
“When we talk about welcoming visitors back to the city, it is certainly in accordance with the rules and regulations that are put down by the medical professionals and provincial rules,” said Stephen Braund, marketing director at Tourism Lethbridge.
Braund added that Lethbridge is in a unique position, with four Unesco World Heritage Sites only a day’s trip away.
“Of course we want to welcome back as many travellers as possible,” he said. “We’re fortunate in that we have so many outdoor attractions, so we are the perfect place to sort of dip your toes back into the travel waters to stay outside and enjoy the outdoors.”
Travel Alberta has previously said the provincial visitor economy suffered a single-year drop in 2020 of $4.9 billion, which is a 48 per cent decrease from 2019.