Time to say goodbye to out-of-province travellers

Only British Columbians should be able to support local tourism businesses during the pandemic

The Whistler Village Gondola. (Flickr/ Ruth Hartnup)

Despite the current public health advisory discouraging any non-essential travel, Whistler has seen a fair number of tourists lately, and unfortunately, some of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

However, the popular tourism destination shouldn’t be seeing any travellers from outside B.C. because it’ll be much harder to flatten the curve if travellers are still allowed to come in or go out of the province. For safety’s sake, only British Columbians should be permitted to support local tourism. An interprovincial travel ban should be in place.

According to Tourism Whistler, people from outside B.C. represent a little more than 10 per cent of overnight visitors so far this season. Dr. Annie Gareau, an emergency room doctor in Whistler, said that she’d seen a troubling number of patients from Ontario and Quebec over the holidays. Considering both provinces are struggling with rising COVID-19 cases, it is concerning that all these extra travellers could present a health risk to the local community.

Although businesses in Whistler are dependent on tourism revenue, it’s better to be safe than sorry and focus on encouraging local tourism. It’s not a good idea to risk spreading COVID-19 to more people just because the tourism industry is suffering. It’s not worth it. Garneau wants the B.C. government to restrict interprovincial travel until the numbers go down.

The province should follow Japan’s initiative and encourage more domestic tourism, like Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s “Go To Travel” campaign which aims to revive local tourism and support small businesses. He stated that the campaign would help restore the economy, maintain employment, and sustain business activity while keeping people safe.

Sure, businesses probably won’t receive the same profits from locals that they’d get from international travellers, but any revenue counts. It’s better than nothing.

If British Columbians want to continue supporting local businesses, this is a great way to do so. I’m sure everybody would love to go on a vacation right about now, or at least have a mini getaway — I know I do. Honestly, at this point, even a two-night stay in a Surrey hotel will suffice.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a ‘staycation’ of some sort. Local travellers just need to keep in mind that they can’t gather with others who aren’t a part of their core bubble and need to practice good health and safety measures. If they want to support domestic tourism, it needs to be done responsibly.

According to an Angus Reid Institute Poll, 65 per cent of Canadians would stop personal travel if it were up to them. The B.C. government should definitely consider banning all non-essential travel between provinces, as we don’t want to spread COVID-19 any further. Local tourism is probably the safest solution for keeping the industry alive.

An interprovincial travel ban could come with a few downfalls though. The provincial government would need to have evidence to justify the ban because it’s an infringement on our mobility rights, as cited in section 6 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to CBC News, Premier John Horgan is currently seeking legal advice in order to see if a ban is even possible. I’m certain there will be people who will try to challenge it in court too. However, the government should give some tough love because there are still “covidiots” who don’t listen to public health orders and advisories.

It’s still unknown if B.C. has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases linked to interprovincial travel, but nevertheless, enacting a short-term interprovincial travel ban should be set in place. It would suck for local tourism businesses everywhere, but there is probably a large portion of British Columbians who’d love to show their support for the industry. Any business would appreciate it.