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Vancouver Island tourism sector entering ‘relief phase’

If we stay on the path we’re on, Vancouver Island will once again, open up to recreational travellers.

Cases have to continue to decline, and 65 percent of B.C. adults will need to have had at least one dose of COVID vaccine, for interprovincial travel restrictions to be lifted by June 15th.

Tourism Vancouver Island president and CEO, Anthony Everett, says while this would be a great first step, there is still much work to do.

“Until the ultimate solution comes, and borders are open, and air service into this country and around the country comes into play again, it’s still going to be pretty rough,” Everett said. 

Everett touched on just how devastating the pandemic has been on the island’s tourism operators.

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“We saw a lot of businesses that did well if they hit 30 percent of their revenues from a year like 2019. Currently, only 14 percent of (tourism) businesses on the island are operating as usual, and so they right now have accumulated debt or haven’t even opened, so all those things are going to factor into their recovery.”

He says we’re now moving into a recovery phase.

“It’s going to be a long road. We know the Canadian hotel sector, they’re expecting to get back to 2019 levels in five or six years,” he added. 

“I don’t want to downplay the impact of this, it’s very positive, it gives everyone hope, and now businesses can have some certainty around planning, which we haven’t had but there are some labour challenges.”

Everett says it begins now that people can travel on the island.

“All of us need this, businesses definitely need it, and it’s onward and upward now that we have a plan ahead of us.”

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He said if ferry travel opens up again to recreational travellers, we could be in for a fairly successful tourism season on the island.

“But having said that, many businesses, even then, hit only 30 percent of (their) revenue, so this is all about recovery. There will be a lot of relief needed for those businesses, and they’re having to pay off the debt that they’re going to incur.”

He’s urging islanders and mainlanders alike, come June 15th, to explore more broadly on the island, to places they’ve never seen before, and not just hit the hot spots.

“We’re hoping people will spread themselves out a bit. (But) one of the things that we’re doing is cautioning people to travel respectfully, and know where they’re going and that they’re respecting the environment that they are taking advantage of.”

He’s challenging people who live in Victoria to check out places like Campbell River or Port Alice. 

“Those are wonderful, wonderful places and many, many people haven’t travelled there. They don’t know the beauty of those places.”

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