Vancouver Island tourism businesses are preparing to welcome fully vaccinated visitors from the United States.
While the United States today announced that it is banning non-essential cross-border travel from Canada until August 21, some Americans are not heading in the opposite direction.
As of August 9, American travelers with two doses of the COVID vaccine will be free to enter Canada.
Tourism Vancouver Island President and CEO Anthony Everett says this is an important first step for the battered tourism industry.
“They are a key market, especially here on the island, but across Canada,” Everett said. “American visitors are a cornerstone and then it is a first step in the arrival of international visitors. I think in August we will see a number of American visitors coming. I have no prediction on the numbers. I think one of the concerns would be that all of these easing restrictions need to be made less complicated as we go along. “
Everett said it was still not clear on the exact steps American travelers need to take to prove they are fully vaccinated before coming to Canada.
“So there are a number of things that the industry needs to understand and then help our American guests as they meet. It will be the same internationally but it’s a big positive and things are moving in the right direction now.
According to Everett, the lifting of the ban on non-essential travel on July 1 provided a slight boost to island tourism businesses.
“This has been the story of the whole pandemic,” Everett said. “I think in the summer, with island residents, residents of British Columbia, now Canadian residents since July 1, business is pretty strong in some parts of the island… even on the island. ‘North Island, I’ve heard that combined bookings are strong. Granted, the West Coast had strong bookings, but they were also last year. Victoria is doing much better.
However, he said the activity providers are really struggling.
“It’s whale watching, fishing, activity providers… all of that, their numbers are still declining, much like last year and they are all working hard to survive. All will be looking to bring their bookings back to where they want them to be in the years to come, 2022, 2023 and beyond. “
Everett said that when it comes to activities like whale watching, locals won’t experience them multiple times and that’s why international tours are so important to many operators and businesses on the island.
“We have an incredible array of things that can be done here, and international visitors are the most in our busy season for many of these operators,” he added. “The locals who live here and see these things for themselves or have experienced them in the past, they don’t necessarily reserve them multiple times to fill a business capacity.”
He expressed concern about the plight of some businesses that are going through another summer of low bookings.
“Right now people are just focusing on the season because in many parts of the province wildfires are affecting business now. “