Cries for clarity: Tourism groups want firm dates for reopening plan

Nova Scotia’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, losing $1.6 billion in revenue last year.

“We employ 50,000 Nova Scotians, we're back up to about 30,000 so we're still down about 20,000 jobs," says Darlene Grant Fiander with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia.

"We generate about $450 million in tax revenue for the provincial government, so that pays for health care, education, infrastructure, so it's incredibly important to the economy."

Nova Scotia is currently in the first of a five-phase reopening plan. The province is expected to move into phase two next Wednesday.

Some notable changes in the second phase include indoor gathering limits increasing to 10 people and outdoor gathering limits to 25. Restaurants will also be able to offer indoor dining with physical distancing.

Officials have said the province’s reopening plan is based on data and not specific dates. However, it’s expected phase three of the reopening plan will start at the end of the month, phase four in mid-July and phase five in September.

"I think folks can be comfortable to book trips in Atlantic Canada for June 30 and the rest of Canada for June for July 14," Premier Iain Rankin said Wednesday.

"But we continue to look at that and how we could provide more accommodations for those that are … vaccinated because they have more protection."

The Hotel Association of Nova Scotia would like to see more clarity surrounding the reopening dates and the vaccine requirements needed.

"If you were to go on the COVID-19 website now under phase three and phase four it says that you may need to self-isolate. While we know that the government is trying to work on potential solutions, for example, if you are fully vaccinated you won't have to isolate, it's really important that the government treats these things very urgently, as people from within the Bubble and Canada are planning their trips to Nova Scotia now,” says Megan Delaney with the hotel association.

Delaney is noticing people are booking accommodations later this year.

"People are booking a bit further out into the tourism season in regards to maybe August or September when things seem like they will more concretely be open and they're more confident in booking,” says Delaney.

Grant Fiander is optimistic about the upcoming tourism season.

"We did an incredible job here in the region and now it's time to help all Nova Scotian communities rebuild. If the tourism economy comes back, Nova Scotia comes back,” says Grant Fiander.

But Grant Fiander would like to see a bit better coordination of guidelines in the Maritimes.

"If travel trade operators are selling packages in the Maritimes or the Atlantic Region if there's differences in group numbers or numbers in restaurants, it's going to be really important that the government now moves to coordination on guidelines,' says Grant Fiander.

"The three Maritime provinces have submitted guidelines. We're hoping that they get approved so that group travel can sell packages that are consistent because, from a customer perspective, they just want to travel and we can't have differences between the provinces."