OTTAWA — Tourism operators across Canada are eager to welcome back visitors in anticipation of lifted travel restrictions. Ontario and Quebec have faced the biggest waves of the pandemic, but are finding ways to win the battle. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island were all quick to adapt their business models, implement and maintain protective strategies — making Atlantic Canada one of the most successful regions in Canada in terms of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Although circumstances have differed across provinces, tourism operators are working towards the same goal — upholding the highest standards of health and safety while improving quality and services to welcome back visitors.
As the potential for more travel increases, safety protocols must still remain the same. These will include wearing a mask inside businesses and limitations on the number of people allowed to gather in various settings.
“This has been the most challenging time for our tourism industry, and even with an easing of restrictions, we are looking at a long road to recovery,” says Craig Foley, CEO of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador. “But the public is eager to travel, and tourism operators here are prepared to start welcoming visitors, while following the required precautions.”
For more than a year, operators have made investments in training staff, upgrading premises and adapting to ever-changing protocols to welcome visitors back safely.
The following are a few examples of innovative strategies implemented by tourism companies across Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec:
• The Association des agences réceptives et forfaitistes du Québec launched the Explore Quebec tourism package platform, which was originally intended for an international audience but has been adapted for domestic vacationers — first Quebec residents and then all Canadians (once restrictions are lifted).
• The Fredericton International Airport has completed construction on its much-anticipated terminal-expansion project — under budget and four months ahead of schedule. Although the pandemic emerged at the mid-point of the project, they were given the chance to improve on amenities, security and add additional space for public-health precautions such as physical distancing, ensuring the terminal building is ready for the future.
• Competitors have found a way to work together in Newfoundland and Labrador to help preserve jobs and earn revenues. The two boat tour companies — Gatherall’s and O’Briens — combined resources in 2020, and will again team up to provide top rated tours in the summer of 2021. This has been instrumental in helping to keep employees on the payroll.
The pandemic has highlighted the major role that tourism plays in the Canadian economy. Looking forward, with a combination of lifted restrictions, vaccine distribution, rising travel demand and a hesitation for overseas travel, domestic travel is predicted to become more popular. “In Ontario, we’re fortunate to have world-class tourism experiences in every corner of our province,” says Christopher Bloore at the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, adding the province boasts great diversity of tourism offerings. The outlook is much the same in Quebec, where residents have already demonstrated an affinity for the tourism opportunities in their home province.
In Atlantic Canada, domestic travel is encouraged. Carol Alderdice, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, has faith in the empathy of Canadians, saying she believes that Canadians are aware of the devastating impact of the epidemic on the tourism industry, because without visitors there are no revenues. “We believe they will want to support our industry and travel within Canada first,” she says.