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Whistler bookings picking up as B.C. enters Phase 2 of Restart Plan

With travel restrictions loosened, Tourism Whistler is focusing on provincial market  
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Tourism Whistler is working with municipal hall to get the message out that the resort is ready to welcome visitors back from across the province.

It didn’t take long for Tourism Whistler (TW) to see travel bookings pick up after Monday’s announcement from the province that B.C. would begin moving into Phase 2 of its pandemic Restart Plan.

“It’s interesting, because when Phase 1 opened up to our health regions—which for us included both the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region and the Fraser Health region—we saw a little bit of pickup but not that strong,” said TW president Barrett Fisher, adding that the restrictions were met with confusion from some prospective visitors.

“But now that Phase 2 has opened up to all British Columbia, we are definitely seeing much stronger pickup, because I think people recognize now that when [provincial health officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry, the premier and all the ministers are welcoming British Columbians to travel, then people know they’ve got the greenlight.” 

Fisher noted that TW is working closely with municipal hall to get the message out that Whistler is “open for business and welcoming visitors back.” But with the Canadian border still closed and non-essential interprovincial travel discouraged, TW is focusing its marketing efforts on B.C. after targeting only the Lower Mainland in Phase 1. 

Recognizing that the provincial tourism market “can only grow so much,” Fisher anticipates similar visitor volumes as last summer. 

This week, Ottawa warned that Canadians eager to travel as vaccination rates climb and restrictions begin to ease may need to prepare for quickly changing processes when crossing the border. (See related story on page 22.)

Canada is set to slightly loosen restrictions for its own citizens returning home beginning next month.

Instead of quarantining 14 days, fully vaccinated Canadians will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure before taking another test upon arrival. They will then need to self-isolate until the second test comes back negative.

The second of B.C.’s four-step reopening, Phase 2 means recreational travel is now permitted across the province. Both BC Transit and BC Ferries will offer increased service as needed. Officials are still advising against travel outside B.C. 

British Columbians travelling within B.C. are asked to plan ahead and be respectful while visiting communities, particularly in smaller, rural towns and in Indigenous communities where local travel advisories may be in place. 

Public health protocols, such as mask-wearing in indoor public spaces and physical distancing, will remain in place during Phase 2. 

“The hospitality and tourism sector have sacrificed so much in the fight against COVID-19. Now we’re encouraging British Columbians to say thank you by exploring B.C. this summer,” read a June 15 joint statement from B.C.’s tourism ministry, Indigenous Tourism BC, the Tourism Industry Association of BC, the BC Hotel Association, Destination BC and the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat. 

“Every dollar British Columbians spend at a local hotel, restaurant, attraction, experience or shop helps people and families, the tourism sector, our communities and our province create jobs, restart and recover.” 

New things you can do under Phase 2 include:

Outdoor personal gatherings up to 50 people (birthday parties, backyard BBQs, block parties);

•Playdates;

Indoor seated organized gatherings up to 50 people with a COVID-19 Safety Plan;

Liquor can be served until midnight instead of 10 p.m.;

•Banquet halls can operate with limited capacity and a COVID-19 Safety Plan;

Indoor high-intensity group exercise allowed with reduced capacity;

•Indoor games and practices for both adults and youth group/team sports allowed; although no spectators are allowed at any indoor sport activity;

•Outdoor spectators up to 50 allowed at sporting events.

B.C. moved into Phase 2 after exceeding its original target of having at least 65 per cent of adults vaccinated with a first dose. Currently, 76.1 per cent of all adult British Columbians and 74.4 per cent of British Columbians 12 and up have received at least one dose. As of June 10, 91.5 per cent of Whistlerites 12 and up have received at least one dose, giving it the highest vaccination rate of any community in the province, according to VCH. The metrics to move through the next phases of the Restart Plan—active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations—continue to decline. n

-With files from Tyler Orton, Business in Vancouver