Grabbing coffee at Sproat Lake Monday, a group of Vancouver band members were still buzzing about performing at the Tofino Jazz Festival.
“Everybody was really warm and welcoming and so excited to dance. We had a really, really fun time … and just had the most fun trip ever,” said Benjamin Millman, a member of the band Bungalow.
But it was a trip that Millman said was nearly cancelled until Friday when Highway 4 reopened to single-lane alternating traffic after 17 days of being closed. Giant cranes are holding nets to contain possible rock fall from the Cameron Bluffs wildfire.
“So we were just so happy that the highway was reopened,” said Millman.
“And we were able to get there quite swimmingly, yeah,” said Alvin Brendan, another band member.
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It’s a relief shared by west coast businesses that rely on Highway 4 to bring tourists.
“Closure of the highway has really impacted our business. Resort side, we lost 95 per cent of our bookings, and here at Della’s (Coffee Shop), foot traffic, and the two million cars that go by every year,” said Sam Higgs, operator of Sproat Lake Landing Resort.
According to Higgs, traffic has started to trickle in at the resort, but he says it’s been slow to pick up.
“We saw some traffic coming through, but obviously, there’s a fear people think they’re going to have to wait, so they don’t come,” said Higgs.
It was a similarly slow start in Tofino, according to the managing director of the Wickaninnish Inn.
“It’s going to take a while to boost the actual bookings and people that haven’t yet made plans to say, ‘Yes, I want to go to Port Alberni, Tofino, Ucluelet, the west coast communities out here,'” said Charles McDiarmid at the inn.
“It just takes a while for that to kick in, and know that their vacation and their time out here won’t be interrupted.”
So as the Canada Day long weekend approaches, hopes are high that tourism will rebound and make up for the weeks of quiet during the highway’s closure. Single-lane alternating traffic will continue until Highway 4 is expected to fully reopen by mid-July.