Travel

B.C. travel restrictions: Victoria tourism businesses hope rules will help save the summer

VICTORIA —
It was a dreary, quiet day in Victoria’s Inner Harbour Saturday, one made drearier and quieter by the first full day of new travel restrictions in B.C.

“It’s slow enough that we do not have any operating trips in Victoria today,” said Ian MacPhee, financial controller and business development manager for Prince of Whales Whale Watching.

The new travel restrictions are adding to the pain Victoria’s tourism industry has already endured over the course of the pandemic.

The only guests booked at the Amethyst Inn in Victoria are there for essential medical appointments at nearby Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The bed and breakfast’s operator Thomas Butterworth says the fate of the business hangs in the balance.

“If we don’t get a good summer, it will be hard to stay afloat,” Butterworth said. “We’d have to transform into more rentals.”

The new provincial order introduced Friday prohibits non-essential travel between health regions and comes with fines of $575 for violators.

BC Ferries won’t sell tickets to people travelling for leisure between the mainland and Vancouver Island, and tourism operators – including hotels and other accommodations – have agreed to refuse bookings from those outside their region unless it’s for an essential stay.

“We’ve cancelled reservations,” said Bill Lewis, general manager of the Magnolia Hotel in Victoria. “We vet the reservations when the calls come in.”

The new order adds to the existing public health recommendations against recreational travel even within a health region.

Despite how strict the new rules may seem, however, many in the hospitality industry say they support them.

“I liken this to having to take a shot of Buckley’s,” said MacPhee. “It hurts. It tastes bad, but it’s what we need to do to get forward for the summer.”

A summer without restrictions – or with fewer of them – would be a major boon to the industry.

“I want to get back to normalcy,” said Butterworth. “Roughly 75 per cent of our revenue is made between May and September.”

If travel restrictions and vaccines get B.C.’s COVID-19 cases down to a level that allows a return of domestic or even international tourism, the pain of the next five weeks will be worth it.




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