Wildfires in B.C.’s interior pushing vacationers to Vancouver Island, says DVBA

Wildfires in B.C.'s interior pushing vacationers to Vancouver Island, says DVBA
WatchAs COVID-19 cases continue to climb in B.C., concern over travel to Vancouver Island is also increasing. Kori Sidaway has more.

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in B.C., concern over travel is also increasing.

In just the past week COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island have almost doubled. Sixty-two cases were reported last Monday, today the province announced a total of 112 cases.

Meanwhile, in less than a week a dozen Vancouver Island flights were added to the COVID exposure list, the majority of which, were either leaving or arriving at Victoria’s International Airport.

For some on the island, both trends are concerning.

“I don’t want people coming here and spreading the virus, especially when it’s not necessary. People should be checked properly before they get on the plane, or people shouldn’t come,” said one Oak Bay resident.

The new federal vaccine mandate for travel doesn’t kick in until ‘early fall’ but the government hasn’t set a specific date just yet.

Air travel is not the only way people are arriving on the island. BC Ferries continues to see boatloads of passengers throughout peak times, and it’s unclear if their staff or passengers fall under the new federal vaccine mandate.

Meanwhile, as the fires rage on in the interior, many British Columbians are changing their travel plans, and Vancouver Island is a top destination.

“One of the trends that has emerged, and we’re hearing it from our retailers, is people who have converted their plans who were going to go to the Okanagan who have found a way to come here because of the wildfires and the COVID numbers out there,” said Jeff Bray, CEO of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA).

But where are these visitors staying?

The DVBA says they’re hearing Airbnb’s, and even family’s basements, as the hotel industry grapples with a hiring problem.

Like the Hotel Grand Pacific which has been on what they call ‘housekeeping sold out’ for months now. Meaning, they’ve had to cut off bookings because they don’t have enough employees to clean the rooms.

The industry is in the midst of lobbying the federal and provincial governments for supports.

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Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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