The tourism industry is pushing back amid talk of an interprovincial travel ban.
Premier John Horgan has said his government is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit travel between provinces.
However, Tourism Kamloops CEO Beverley DeSantis — who is also a director of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia — said implementing such a ban would further “devastate” the tourism industry. TIABC received its own legal opinion, which suggested a travel ban would be difficult to implement because of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that upheld mobility rights of Canadians.
“We’re really asking the province not to pursue this outright travel ban,” DeSantis said. “It sends a message that visitors are to blame and tourism is to blame. That is not the case. There is no indication that visitors are the ones that are causing the spread of the pandemic.”
DeSantis said the tourism industry has taken significant measures to keep people safe.
Scott’s Inn general manager Atish Patel said thousands of dollars have been spent.
Glass dividers were purchased to divide tables, capacity was reduced, time between hotel stays increased, masks are required and cleaning increased.
“Safety is No. 1,” Patel said.
Patel said limited traffic has been coming from out-of-province during the pandemic, but an interprovincial travel ban would be another blow. Occupancy rates are already down by half, he said. Kamloops is the gateway to the rockies and Patel said people from Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer stop en route to Vancouver.
DeSantis asked people not to judge without knowing circumstances of why people may be in town from another province. She also reminded that people from out-of-province spend money in B.C.
“We don’t want to assume they’re causing it [spread of COVID-19] and creating animosity between our provinces,” she said.
Out-of-province license plates at ski hills have been one point of contention.
Tourism Sun Peaks president and CEO Arlene Schieven, however, said 95 per cent of visitation this season has come from within British Columbia and a minimal number of people have trickled in from Alberta or Ontario, potentially with homes at Sun Peaks.
“It’s a local season this year,” she said, noting season’s pass holders have been frequenting the slopes and marketing efforts are focussed on those close to home, including offering mid-week discounts. She expects an interprovincial ban on travel would have “very little impact.”
B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has not issued a public health order to date banning interprovincial travel, but a federal advisory warns against non-essential travel and quarantine rules are in effect for those returning to the country. Atlantic Canada has also instituted a bubble system.
DeSantis said conversations with industry need to occur before government announcements and plans. The B.C. government was previously criticized for a last-minute decision to impose a curfew on alcohol sales on New Year’s Eve.
— with file from the Canadian Press