While public health officials have called on residents within the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Fraser Health regional zone to limit non-essential travel to the Sunshine Coast, reservations for the Victoria Day long weekend are already selling out.
BC Ferries reservations for passage to Langdale from Horseshoe Bay for regular-sized vehicles on Friday, May 21 were sold out on seven out of eight sailings as of May 12. For the return trip on Monday, May 24, reservations were also sold out on seven out of eight sailings.
Travel to the Sunshine Coast has been on the rise since Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced new rules banning non-essential travel between regional zones until the end of the May long weekend.
Between April 23 and May 24, people are legally required not to travel between Vancouver Island, the combined Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regional zone, and the combined Northern and Interior Health zone, except for essential reasons.
Travel restrictions apply to ferry routes between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, but not from West Vancouver to the lower Sunshine Coast, since both areas are situated within VCH.
All three Sunshine Coast local governments called on the province to extend the ban to the coast, including Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish, who in a public statement called the decision “extremely unfair” and urged Farnworth to “rethink” keeping the Coast open to non-essential travel.
Last weekend saw a minor increase in ferry travel to the Sunshine Coast (1.7 per cent for vehicles and 7.4 per cent for foot passengers) compared to the previous weekend, which saw an increase of more than 20 per cent compared to the weekend following the order announcement.
Travel from West Vancouver to Nanaimo, meanwhile, saw a drop last weekend of 7.7 per cent for vehicles and six per cent for foot passengers, according to BC Ferries public affairs executive director Deborah Marshall.
Compared to a similar weekend in 2019, vehicle travel was down last weekend on the Departure Bay route by 61 per cent, and 77 per cent for foot passengers.
On the Sunshine Coast route it was down 40 per cent for vehicles and 55 per cent for foot passengers.
In response to the travel increase, Mayor Beamish told Coast Reporter in an email, “the Ferries continue to provide unrestricted access to the Sunshine Coast as a destination of choice for many visitors who are discouraged from travel to Vancouver Island. This is evidenced by the steady increase in travel to Langdale from Horseshoe Bay while travel to Nanaimo has decreased.”
He also reminded visitors they are expected to fully comply with COVID-19 regulations: “We are protecting our community and ask that you do the same; if you can’t do that, please stay home.”