Queen Victoria arrives in Barkerville during the 2019 Victoria Day weekend celebrations. Barkerville Historic Town and Park typically opens in mid-May, but this year, due to COVID-19, the expected opening day has been pushed to June 18. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

B.C. tourism on track for in-province travel, John Horgan says

Premier expects essential-only travel advisory to be eased soon

B.C.’s COVID-19 essential-travel advisory could be lifted as soon as next week’s cabinet meeting to allow tourist attractions to invite out-of-town guests, Premier John Horgan says.

Emerging from his weekly cabinet meeting at the B.C. legislature June 10, Horgan hinted that a decision to lift the provincial travel advisory is imminent, as coronavirus cases continue to taper off in the province. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been monitoring B.C.’s risk as schools and businesses reopen.

“I think the likelihood of us traveling inside of B.C. is very, very high,” Horgan said. “Dr. Henry wanted to wait for two incubation periods to make sure that the positive results we’ve been seeing over the past number of weeks continue. I think that we’re going to be hearing an announcement from government based on advice from Dr Henry and her team that internal travel can begin.”

Tourism-dependent businesses have issued dire warnings about being able to survive as restrictions have stretched toward three months. Destination B.C. has a province-wide marketing program ready to go, replacing the international promotion it usually runs, Horgan said.

RELATED: B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention

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Barkerville, the gold rush town in the Cariboo, has set a tentative reopening date of June 18, and the province is on track to allow that as long as coronavirus cases don’t spike up. Some remote and Indigenous communities have indicated they don’t want visitors, and Henry has advised that communities are free to make that determination based on their local conditions.

B.C. does not have a travel ban within the province or from other provinces, but highway signs continue to advise essential travel only, and B.C. and Alberta health ministers have urged people to avoid travelling to summer homes during the pandemic.

Horgan held out little hope of any resumption of non-essential international visitors, key to many B.C. tourism operators in previous years. And he said the travel advisory reflects the reluctance of many people to travel beyond their local area.

“British Columbians need to get out, stretch their legs, go to other places, but they’re not feeling particularly comfortable about that just yet,” Horgan said. “We’ve had great results in B.C., but when you look at other parts of the country, in fact when you look just south of us in Washington, Oregon, and California, we’ve seen a spike in cases. As we’ve been going down, they’ve started to dial back up again.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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