Maritime tourism operators hoping to salvage summer season

The May long weekend is typically when many tourism operators see visitors and bookings start to rise, but very few are making vacation plans yet.

The summer months bring out the beauty in Cape Breton island, along with big business for tourism operators.

But for the second straight year, COVID-19 is creating a lot of uncertainty over what the summer tourism season will bring.

“In 2019 it was great,” says Terri Shobbrook, owner of a bed and breakfast in Kempt Head, N.S. “There has hardly been anything since then. I went from 100 per cent occupancy, to about 1 per cent. It’s sad.”

Shobbrook says it has been a rollercoaster ride since the Atlantic bubble burst in November, and Nova Scotia went back into lockdown in April.

“I had myself scheduled to open April 1, and then I change it to May 1, and then when the lockdown happened, I just closed it up again, but I haven’t even been getting any bookings for June at this point,” says Shobbrook.

Parks Canada announced Friday that they are delaying the opening of all campgrounds, visitor centres, and most attractions while provincial measures are in place.

“The tourism industry needs every little bit of help it can get,” says Terry Smith, CEO of Destination Cape Breton.

Smith says it is a tough pill to swallow for businesses to be shut down for the May long-weekend.

“Overall, people are really hesitant,” says Smith. “They’re holding off their bookings. We’d love to see more people making their plans.”

Smith is hopeful that with vaccinations rising, COVID cases will start to lower, allowing for a summer season desperately needed for those who work in the Maritime tourism industry.