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This weekend is one many in the tourism sector have been looking forward to for months.
It’s the first weekend people have been able to travel recreationally within British Columbia in a while and some in the tourism sector are already seeing a big change.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, BC Ferries saw numerous full sailings as mainlanders came to Vancouver Island to get away.
“Super busy yeah. We were really happy we had a reservation but it looked like there might have been a couple [of] sailing wait for sure,” said Jason Somerville.
For Jason Somerville’s family, it’s the first time in a year and a half they’re visiting Vancouver Island from the lower mainland.
“My family’s here. I got my wife and two kids and they’re super stoked to be out. We got some new paddleboards and are testing them out,” said Somerville.
At the Surfside RV Resort in Parksville, they had their busiest winter ever with snowbirds filling it. After a quieter spring, the park is once again packed.
“We’re full this weekend [with] mostly locals,” said Shawn Bennett, the resort’s general manager.
Ocean Sands Resort has also seen an increase in travellers and is at nearly 80 per cent occupancy this weekend.
“A lot of people have been talking about the pent-up demand and we’re definitely seeing it so the phones are ringing and lots of reservations coming in for the summer, July and August,” said Darcy Stephenson, manager of Ocean Sands.
The head of Tourism Vancouver Island, who is also camping this weekend, says this summer may be the perfect time for British Columbians to explore their province.
“At the end of the day, tourism is not going to recover until we have international borders and international guests again. The U.S. is a primary market here for us on the island and we need to see those people travelling again before we get back to a sense of where we were before and I think that will just take time,” said Anthony Everett, Tourism Vancouver Island’s president and chief executive officer.
The tourism operators say the lifting of B.C.’s travel restrictions is a step in the right direction.