Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Whistler leaders react to B.C. restart plan

Roadmap is welcomed, but Whistler is not ‘out of the woods’ yet
Whistler Earls restaurant - indoor dining - BC COVID-19 restart plan
Local restaurants like Earls Whistler are now welcoming guests to dine indoors for the first time since March, after the B.C. provincial government announced its four-step restart plan on Tuesday, May 25.

With more than 60 per cent of adults vaccinated with their first dose against COVID-19 and case counts and hospitalizations steadily declining, the provincial government unveiled its four-step plan towards a “more normal life” on May 25—news that is more than welcomed in Whistler after 15 months of pandemic uncertainty.

“I think it’s great news … we’ve been waiting for clear provincial guidelines and a clear timeline, so this definitely provides a roadmap for how we can return to a new normal,” said Tourism Whistler president and CEO Barrett Fisher.

“We’re certainly very positive about today’s announcement.”

As of May 25, indoor gatherings of up to five people and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted, as well as limited indoor dining (up to six people per party), and liquor service extended to 10 p.m.

Things like limited capacity, low-intensity indoor fitness classes and outdoor local team games and practices (without spectators) are also a go as of May 25.

Step 2 of the plan—which hinges on 65 per cent of the population being vaccinated and a continued decline in cases and hospitalizations—will start June 15 at the earliest, and includes: the lifting of provincial travel restrictions; outdoor personal gatherings of up to 50 people; liquor served until midnight, as well as the reopening of banquet halls with limited capacity and safety plans; and indoor team games and practices.

Tourism Whistler’s summer marketing program to the Lower Mainland region will be rolling out this week (expanding to the rest of the province in Step 2), and will focus on a “slower, more conscious way of travelling,” Fisher said.

“We want our Lower Mainland and B.C. visitors to think of Whistler as a vacation; to plan to come and experience the area a little bit slower, a little bit longer, so that we can alleviate some of the traffic on Friday nights and Sunday nights, and so that we can move people around the resort safely, ” she said.

“Part of that does come with the fact that international borders are not anticipated to be open until at least September, if not later, and so what better time for people to think of taking a longer stay in their own backyard?”

While the news is also “very welcome” at the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, “it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods yet,” said CEO Melissa Pace.

“The majority of our business community is under heavy debt load … being closed down for the last six weeks, they’ve used up any kind of revenue they had made over the winter,” Pace said.

“We’ve got a long ways to go before our businesses are going to feel any level of comfort.”

With that in mind, the advocacy work at the Chamber won’t be slowing down any time soon, and an Advocacy in Action meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 27 with MLA Jordan Sturdy and MP Patrick Weiler.

Asked to weigh in on the restart, Whistler Blackcomb said it is currently reviewing the province’s plan and will have more to share about its summer operations soon.

In Step 3 (July 1 at the earliest, with 70 per cent vaccinated, low case counts and hospitalizations declining), limits on dining will be lifted, along with liquor service restrictions; bingo halls, casinos and nightclubs can open with limited capacity; and Canada-wide recreational travel will be permitted, as will seminars and bigger work meetings.

By Step 4 (Sept. 7 at the earliest, with more than 70 per cent vaccinated, “contained clusters” of cases and low hospitalizations), the plan calls for normal social contact, indoor concerts and fully re-opened offices and workplaces.

While masks will continue to be mandatory through Steps 1 and 2, by Step 3 they will be “recommended” and in Step 4 it will be left to “personal choice.”

“If we move through these steps in a thoughtful way, following the data, making sure the science directs us, I think we can get to a better place faster,” said Premier John Horgan in a May 25 press conference.

“For the past 15 months we’ve been asking you to make sacrifices. We’re going to continue to ask you to make sacrifices for a few more weeks, but the light that we’ve been talking about for weeks and weeks now is at hand.”

But B.C.’s reopening “will be based on the data, not the dates,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“We will be staying flexible, because we know this virus has some tricks up its sleeve still. We will be continuing to monitor what’s happening around the globe,” Henry said.

“We’ll be learning as we go, as we have from the very beginning of this pandemic.”