Vancouver Island tourism operators look to Alberta COVID-19 pilot project

Vancouver Island tourism operators look to Alberta COVID-19 pilot project
WatchCurrently, most people coming into the country are required to isolate for 14 days. But a pilot project that offers COVID-19 testing at the Calgary International Airport and a border crossing could reduce that time frame.

COVID-19 is causing difficulties across the entire tourism industry on Vancouver Island.

For example, the best time of year to see marine life, but there are no tourists.

Springtide Whale Watching owner Dan Kukat said business is down dramatically.

“In our particular case because we’re more heavily reliant on the large international tour companies, Springtide’s business is down 94 per cent. But we expect to finish the year down 96 per cent.  So basically business is non-existent,” Kukat said.

And the whole industry is heading into a tough winter on the second wave of the pandemic, according to Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria.

“It’s those tour operators, the whale watchers, the attractions and others that are really suffering. Because their businesses are geared towards travellers from afar.  And they can’t just pivot and service local customers as readily,” Nursey said.

The Island tourism industry is watching Alberta pilot project targeting the tourism industry there.

Starting Nov.2, international passengers have the option of taking a voluntary COVID-19 test on arrival at the Calgary International Airport and a border crossing. It could reduce the quarantine period from the mandatory 14 days to just two with a negative test. Once a passenger tests negative they can leave isolation provided they agree to a second test six days later and follow guidelines.

Nursey said this is something that could happen in B.C.

“When it comes to BC naturally I think the first place it would go is to Vancouver International Airport.  But secondary airports like Victoria and Kelowna hopefully wouldn’t be too far behind.”

But this type of project may take time to come to BC, according to Island Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick.

“This would be a provincial decision. And then certainly we would want to be consistent in applying it across the province. We function as one health system. I would see this as something that would be carefully reviewed by our experts at BC CDC [Centre for Disease Control].  And then a policy decision coming forward,” Stanwick said.

Kukat said he hopes the newly elected NDP government is preparing a plan to help tourism operators.

“We do believe that time is of the essence here. That we don’t want to be the laggards, provincially with Alberta moving forward in the first step.”

READ MORE: B.C. reports 287 new cases of COVID-19, 3 new cases in Island Health


Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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