Back in late March, when the daily numbers of reported coronavirus cases and COVID-related deaths in B.C. were steadily climbing and the outlook was grim, coastal communities sent out an urgent appeal: please stay away. For three months that was the message, backed by the advice of health officials and the support of local governments, chambers of commerce, tourism groups and the general public.
All that changed last week when the province gave the green light to non-essential travel. The effect was immediate. Crowded ferries, heavy highway traffic with lots of RVs and boat trailers, fully booked accommodations – the tourists were back.
This is great news for cash-starved local businesses, but for some residents it’s a hard pill to swallow. Our online poll of more than 600 readers found 57 per cent were not comfortable with tourists from other parts of B.C. coming to visit the Coast at this time. Some people are clearly on edge.
We should brace for a big influx this summer. A national survey conducted by Ipsos found that four in 10 Canadians are planning summer road trips and most will be staying close to home. Top reasons to travel will be to visit family and friends, explore another town or city, spend time at the beach and go camping. This will make the Coast a natural destination for many people on the Lower Mainland.
The good news, according to Ipsos, is that 94 per cent of those planning a trip say they will be taking precautions to safeguard themselves and others, with two-thirds saying they will limit contact and avoid crowds. B.C. residents are the most cautious, with 78 per cent intending to limit contact with those outside their immediate circle.
The heightened awareness among British Columbians is consistent with how they have handled the pandemic so far, thanks in large part to the superb guidance of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. In one of their recent joint statements, they urged everyone to “make sure we travel respectfully, by using our travel manners, planning ahead, being prepared and maintaining safe social interactions.”
We trust visitors will follow that advice, and that Coasters travelling to other communities will do likewise, while continuing to set a positive example at home.
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