'The moment we’ve all been waiting for': Victoria businesses optimistic about B.C. restart plan

As pandemic restrictions ease, the Victoria business community is optimistic about the coming months.

"It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for from a business point of view,” said Mark Colgate, a professor at the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.

With British Columbia moving to stage three of its COVID-19 restart plan, pent-up demand could have a real impact on our economic recovery.

"We might see some revenge tourism where people who wanted to do some tourism experiences are now being able to do them,” said Colgate.

The U.S. border remains closed but Canada-wide travel is back.

"Tourism is opening up,” said Bill Lewis, chair of the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria. “It's exciting that we'll be able to welcome Canadians and make the most of the summer that's available to us."

There is a catch though: during the pandemic, hotels paired down staffing levels. Now filling those roles again is turning out to be a problem.

"All hotels are finding it challenging to find staff for a number of positions, particularly housekeeping, kitchen,” said Lewis.

With the easing of restrictions, restaurants can go back to business as usual.

"We're thrilled to be able to have larger than six people, put some more tables back in,” said Solomon Siegel, co-owner of Pagliacci's restaurant in Victoria.

It won’t be business as usual inside grocery stores, despite masks becoming optional.

"We're still going to mandate that all our people wear masks," said Noel Hayward, president of Quality Foods.

The grocery store's management met on Tuesday morning and decided that staff would continue to wear masks but will revaluate in the coming weeks.

As for customers, they will be able to make their own decision whether to mask up or not.

"We're still going to maintain our seniors and those most vulnerable shopping times from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.," said Hayward.

It's a sign that despite the major step forward on Thursday, returning to normal is going to be a work in progress.