Visitors Center along Hwy 5 to the town of Valemount, B.C., with the Cariboo Mountain range in background. (Village of Valemount/Wikimedia Commons)

Northern communities welcome tourists as province opens to in-B.C. travellers

Officials have asked British Columbians to be careful as they travel this summer

  • Jul. 6, 2020 6:00 a.m.

By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat

More than a month-and-a-half after the government began reopening sectors of the economy, the Premier and B.C.’s top medical officer announced it was safe enough to support local businesses and travel around the province.

“We found a balance of increasing our contacts and doing it in a way that’s safe,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “We need to keep this balance for the coming months until we have an effective vaccine or treatment.”

On June 24, the government announced the province could move into Phase 3 of the restart. All accommodations, tourism operators, movie theatres, restaurants, bars, and retail outlets could open provided they conformed to public health and WorkSafe BC protocols.

The same day of the Phase 3 announcement, the Village of Valemount declared itself officially open for business.

“Welcome back to our community and surrounding area,” said Mayor Owen Torgerson. “The mountains are ready for you.”

Crowds over 50 people are still not allowed, nor are conferences and other large public venues. Even large family get-togethers continue to be discouraged.

Henry cautioned people to maintain safe physical distance from those outside their bubble. “The things that we have been doing will get us through this very unique summer,” she said. “And will get us through the upcoming fall as well.”

We need to remember we are not leaving COVID-19 behind, said Horgan. “It is here in every corner of British Columbia and we need to behave accordingly.”

READ MORE: B.C. ready for in-province travel, John Horgan says

It was all of us who flattened the initial curve, Torgerson said in a press release issued on June 24. “It will be all of us ­that will be responsible for the safe implementation, and ultimately, the success of B.C.’s restart plan,” he said.

Horgan says he hopes as British Columbians travel farther afield, they will be mindful they’re going into someone else’s neighborhood. “They should be respectful of that and practice the same procedures that they put in place in their own hometown, in their own community, wherever they’re traveling to,” he said.

We can all move at our own pace, said Henry. “Some individuals may choose to continue to limit their social interactions… and some communities may decide that they are not yet ready to receive visitors.”

Residents of McBride have mixed feelings about the reopening of the economy, said Mayor Gene Runtz. Businesses need more customers but with an older demographic and limited healthcare resources, villagers are understandably nervous, he said.

The decision of whether or not to encourage tourists in the community will go before municipal council, said the mayor, who in mid-March took the unusual step of publicly asking visitors to stop visiting the village.

“That was different,” said Runtz. “Everybody was scared to death.” It was early days in the pandemic when some snowmobilers hit town and were disregarding public health rules, he said. “These people were not respecting what was being said in B.C., so, we said, `If you can’t behave yourself, just stay away.”’

Still, restaurants and businesses need tourists, the majority of whom typically come from Alberta, said Runtz. No one knows how much of a gap in-province tourists can fill.

Either way, the mayor already knows how he’ll be voting in council. “I want to see people come back right now,” he said. “It’s time.”

READ MORE: B.C. reopening travel not sitting well with several First Nations

McBride is by nature, a friendly place, said Runtz. “If people start coming in, and if they self-distance, and are respectful,” he said. “I don’t see any problem at all.

There are a lot of places to go and a lot of capacity within the system, said Horgan, who is hoping for a holiday himself in the middle of August after the current legislative session has ended. “People should, if they have the time and have the ability, they should be planning their holidays right now.”

CoronavirusTourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sarah Simpson Column: Creativity, and smoke, yields two new ‘computers’

My son opted to empty the recycling bin of all its boxes and create stuff.

Arts & Entertainment column: A new book, an art prize, and an AGM

Here are a few of the things happening in Cowichan’s arts and culture scene.

Cowichan golf pro Jackson up for provincial honour

Cowichan Golf Club mainstay is already the only two-time winner

Tube Shack’s annual clean-up shows how far river has come

Less garbage than previous years, owing to years of clean-ups and weekly patrols

BCHL approves back-up plan for 2020-21 season

Without gate revenue, league will rely on player fees, government and business support

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read