The release of New Brunswick’s three phase reopening plan is being met with relief by the province’s tourism association.
“We’re just so excited to have dates to work with,” said Carol Alderdice, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick (TIANB).
“You just can’t turn tourism on the dime, you need time to plan, you need time to get your staff back, you need time to get them trained, to get ready to meet the guests coming in.”
On Thursday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard and Premier Blaine Higgs laid out the province’s three phase reopening plan. The first phase will come into effect when 75 per cent of the eligible population has at least one dose of vaccine, which could be as soon as June 7. Yellow level restrictions will be loosened, but, most importantly for the tourism sector, travellers from Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador can enter the province without self-isolating.
The second phase kicks in when 20 per cent of those over 65 have had their second dose, which could be as early as July 1. At that point, the Atlantic Bubble would open in full and travellers from across the country who have received at least one dose of the vaccine can visit the province without self-isolating.
While that will be a critical milestone for tourism operators in the province, Alderdice says this tourism season is more about surviving for better days ahead than anything else.
“It’s absolutely still a survival year,” she said.
“Just because we are starting to greet visitors does not mean that we’re out of trouble.”
Alderdice said emergency measures like the wage subsidy and rent relief offered by the federal government will need to remain in place, even after restrictions have been lifted, in order to allow many operators to survive the year.
“Last year was a very bleak year for tourism. There’s no fund anywhere, just debt. It will take months and years to get back where we were,” Alderdice said.
“Just because everybody is travelling does not mean the revenue is going to be coming.”
The business community is also greeting the reopening plan warmly. The key date for them is August 2, when the province could move to the “green” alert level, ending the emergency order and lifting all public health restrictions.
Fredericton Chamber of Commerce CEO Krista Ross said until then, it’s important for New Brunswickers to continue supporting local businesses, as they have over the last 15 months.
“The end is in sight and we need to make sure we get them over the finish line by supporting them,” Ross said.
But New Brunswickers can support businesses and the tourism sector in another way as well. Each of the phases of the reopening plan depend on vaccination rates, including the end of the emergency order that will require at least 75 per cent of those eligible to have both doses.
“As a community we need to make sure that people are getting their appointment and getting out and getting vaccinated so that we can go back to some type of normal business situation and life situation,” Ross said.