Destination Greater Victoria’s marketing machine will kick off in the coming days to attract Vancouver Island residents to the capital after the province announces the lifting of travel restrictions to health zones as part of the first phase of its latest economic reopening plan.
The four-phase plan, which went into effect on Tuesday, is what the tourism industry, decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been demanding for weeks – enough clarity and direction to allow people to start planning their vacation.
“For summer and pleasure travel, that sets a pretty clear roadmap and we can work with it,” said Paul Nursey, general manager of the destination marketing organization.
“It’s an exciting day, we’ve been very vocal about the need for a restart plan, so today is a day to be thankful.”
Recreational travel is permitted in all three health zones now that more than 60% of BC’s adult population has received a first dose of the vaccine and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are stable.
By June 15, if the province has 65 percent of the adult population on a first dose and COVID cases and hospitalizations decline, there will no longer be provincial travel restrictions.
By July 1, the province hopes to lift all travel restrictions in Canada and allow visitors from across the country.
“We have recovery campaigns ready to go,” Nursey said. “First with regional campaigns, then broadcast across Canada as summer approaches.”
The message of these ad campaigns will play heavily on the themes of trust and community, he said, and will note that Victoria is a very special place and needs to be well maintained.
He said campaigns that target people off the island will need to be responsive to community concerns.
Bill Lewis, general manager of the Magnolia Hotel, said that while they understand dates can change based on health data, this is a sufficient roadmap to start preparing to host. again customers.
“I was very happy to see clear and defined timelines; they may not be set in stone, but that’s what we’re asking as an industry – that businesses and people booking stays start making plans when they can reasonably expect to travel ” , did he declare. “Having these dates allows them to plan a vacation and it gives them back anticipation and excitement.”
Even with a sense of what summer will be like and when the island can start accepting Canadian visitors, the industry is gearing up for a tough season.
Lewis said they would miss the volume that comes with an open international border. Hotels, which have reported an occupancy rate of less than 10% in the past two months – 12-15% in a good week – have “virtually nothing” booked for the peak months of July and August. .
“The breaker has definitely brought tourism, even domestic tourism, to a pretty tough stop,” Lewis said.
One of the frustrations expressed by the industry was the lack of details, such as vaccination thresholds or possible opening dates for the Canada-US border.
While the industry is aware this is a federal decision, many were still hoping for direction.
“I was happy to see that there was a positive direction there, but I was really hoping to see metrics to see what goals they need to hit to get an opening,” said Clipper Navigation Managing Director Dave Gudgel. “I appreciate the delays, but it makes planning even more difficult for us.”
Clipper, which sails between downtown Seattle and Victoria’s Inner Harbor, has been idling since March 2020 but could be running a few weeks after a deal is secured.
Gudgel said they won’t resume regular service until Seattle and Victoria are ready and comfortable to accept the ships. Clipper will begin its Seattle-Friday Harbor service this week.
Ryan Burles, president of Black Ball, which operates the Coho car ferry between Victoria and Port Angeles, Washington, said he was pleased with Tuesday’s announcement and Prime Minister John Horgan’s hope that international travel could be in the cards at the end of this year.
“It’s something that gives us hope,” he said. “It is encouraging that the two governments are starting to talk about what the next steps will be.”
Horgan said international travel will depend on what’s going on in the world and will be led by Ottawa.
There are other issues with the reopening plan that still need work, said Reid James, general manager of the Grand Pacific hotel.
While being happy with the roadmap, James said there were still questions about meetings and conferences being held at hotels and whether they are considered offices and workspaces or organized events, as well. as details on the capacities of the swimming pool and the gym.
“I would always like to make it clear that I can book a large conference, including a standing reception this fall and at what capacity,” he said. “We really need the border to be open for a real summer, but recognize it’s more complicated and it’s a federal decision.”
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