Tourism operators in Victoria eager for international borders to reopen

Tuesday was the first day British Columbians could travel anywhere in the province on vacation. But Victoria’s Inner Harbour — normally a mecca for summer tourists — remained quiet, with few folks from the mainland taking advantage of their new freedom.

Up island, however, Tofino was already feeling the onset of recreational travellers from the mainland, according to Samantha Hackett, the manager of the Long Beach Lodge Resort.

"We have more arrivals today than what we expected," said Hackett. "This is definitely the opening of our summer season, we have higher occupancy than we've had since last November."

Meanwhile, BC Ferries says with good weather in the forecast and no travel ban in place, it has added more sailings for the weekend, as it expects it will be busy.

 "Not only is it supposed to be sunny, but it's also Father’s Day, so many people will probably be wanting to visit with their family and friends," said Deborah Marshall, spokesperson for BC Ferries.

But in Victoria, Brooke Harris, with the Inn at Laurel Point hotel, says urban centres aren’t anticipating the same demand as destinations like Tofino.

What the tourism industry in the city really needs is international tourists to return before things return to any semblance of how they were pre-pandemic, says Harris.

"Being the proximity that we have to Washington state and that side of the border, it’s huge," said Harris. "(International travel) is a huge part that we're missing. So we're quite anxious to see those borders open when it's safe to do so."

So far, no date has been set for when the Canada-U.S. border will reopen for tourism. But on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is meeting with all the premiers to get their feedback on the issue.

B.C. Premier John Horgan addressed that upcoming meeting on Tuesday, during a press conference with Western Canadian premiers.

"There’s absolute consensus that we want to get back as quickly a possible to whatever normal will be, but we also expect the Federal Government to be leading on this question," said Horgan.

For Victoria’s tourism industry there seems to be consensus that a safe reopening of international borders is needed sooner rather than later in order to turn flagging fortunes around.