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Southwestern Ontario tourist communities hopeful for busy summer with no COVID restrictions

Port Stanley beach on the first day opening after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced two weeks ago all beaches were able as part of Phase 2 of the province's reopening plan. June 22, 2020. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

With warmer weather and summer vacation on the horizon, southwestern Ontario communities are gearing up for the busy tourist season.

With COVID-19 still a factor worldwide, beachfront communities expect another busy summer as people continue staycations.

“I think a lot of people are still nervous about travelling and they are staying in their own Ontario backyard. We are certainly expecting another banner busy summer,” says Susan Mills, manager of the Grand Bend and Area Chamber of Commerce.

Read more: ‘A welcome sign,’ tourism industry anticipates boost from return of seasonal travellers

“I am hearing a lot of the cottages are already booked, and hotels are eager to get people in.”

Mills said the growth in people vacationing locally is something she expects to last for at least the next two years.

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Still, she says many local businesses are struggling to make sure they have enough staff. She is encouraging all vacationers to be patient as service may take a bit longer due to staffing shortages.

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After several pandemic shutdowns, Mills said local businesses are optimistic about what this summer will bring.

Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn is hoping for the same turnout for Port Stanley,

“I would hope it is a better tourist season for all the businesses, in particular, we had no problem with the beach, the beach was overwhelmed during the last two seasons, even with COVID. We had a large number on the beaches, but the actual shops had much more restricted time,” Martyn says.

Read more: Residents can get a tax credit from ‘Ontario Staycation’ in 2022

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“We are expecting loads of people because people still want to get out, and being outdoors most of the time is a lot safer than being indoors.”

Martyn says they are working on a parking system making all lots paid parking and having a two-hour limit on their main street. This would include adding paid parking to Erie Rest and Little Beach.

“The beach is very expensive to maintain and have 17 lifeguards hired for the season, so the paid parking on the beaches has helped with that, but it’s certainly not covering all the cost.”

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