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Tofino mayor not rolling out welcome mat, despite resorts already booking guests

Last Updated May 28, 2020 at 1:43 pm PDT

FILE: Surfers head into the water in Tofino, B.C. Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Tofino's mayor is not rolling out the welcome mat just yet when it comes to inviting tourists back to Vancouver Island

Some resort and hotel operators have already indicated they're ready to book guests as early as June 1

B.C. premier, top doctor have made it clear we're still in Phase 2 of business recovery

TOFINO (NEWS 1130) — As British Columbians plan their trips and begin booking stays at hotels and resorts on Vancouver Island, the mayor of Tofino is asking you not to rush to her community just yet.

Josie Osborne says the green light hasn’t been given by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and concerns remain about their health care system getting overloaded.

“I have so much gratitude for those visitors who reach out ahead and they ask, ‘Is it okay to come? Are you welcoming us yet? We’ve seen the advertisements from the hotels we are talking to them.’  And they check in.  They are actually directly contacting the mayor of Tofino or contacting the visitors’ information centre just to kind of double check,” Osborne says.

Osborne is discouraging anything but essential travel until the province has given regional tourism the go-ahead.

“We’re going to see a very slow turning up of the dial.  Nobody in Tofino wants to be overwhelmed.  We know it’s really important to be responsive to the health care capacity here on the West Coast which is limited and it’s also really important for us to work with the neighbouring first nations and to pace this correctly.”

Osborne tells NEWS 1130 she’s been getting calls from people wondering exactly when they are allowed to visit Tofino and her advice is to avoid making any plans that can’t be undone should new cases of COVID-19 spike.

“Some people might feel there are mixed messages out there and nobody’s done tourism in a pandemic before, so we’re all learning and going slowly and cautiously.  Most people, from my understanding and my conversations directly with guests that are looking to come out this way, is that they are waiting for us to welcome them.”

A few resort and hotel operators have indicated they’re ready to book guests as early as June 1st, but Premier John Horgan made it clear Wednesday we’re still in Phase 2 of the province’s recovery plan.

“Our focus is on public health and making sure people are safe.  We want to get the economy back to a place where people can be comfortable going to work, going to shop, going to visit destinations around British Columbia, but we’re not certainly at Stage 3 yet.”

The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare is also discouraging any tourism-based trips before mid-June.

“We are in Phase 2 of the Restart Plan and the current advice is to avoid non-essential travel. I have been working closely with leaders in the tourism industry to get ready for the next phase. Once the Provincial Health Officer announces the beginning of Phase 3, we will be working closely with communities and Destination BC to encourage British Columbians to safely travel and explore our spectacular province.”

B.C.’s state of emergency has now been extended through June 9th which surpasses the previous record of ten weeks set during the 2017 wildfire season.

That lasted from July 7 until September 15.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify language around timelines.