VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Florida and Arizona may be out of reach, but not Parksville or Victoria.
Snowbirds looking to escape winter across the rest of Canada are being welcomed with open arms by Vancouver Island’s tourism industry.
With COVID-19 cutting off U.S. destinations, the local tourism board is asking travellers to look west instead of south.
Anthony Everett with Tourism Vancouver Island says local operators and businesses have been trying to evolve to deal with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now we’re heading into the winter where business is looking really down and bleak for a lot of areas of the Island and their business and those businesses in those areas,” Everett tells NEWS 1130. “So, we’re focused now on people are coming, we know snowbirds are coming to the Island, and our job is to make sure they move around the Island as broadly as possible.”
Forget Florida. Avoid Arizona. Go west! Tourism Vancouver Island is asking snowbirds to consider staying in the mildest winter climate in Canada, with their usual sun-destinations cut off by COVID. It says local operators and biz are eager to welcome them.https://t.co/6xS5eBdpqG
— Mike Lloyd (@llikemoyd) October 27, 2020
Tourism Vancouver Island’s Venture West This Winter campaign has created a resource guide to show what’s available to snowbirds, and which communities are open to visitors.
Another part of the campaign is ensuring visitors are responsible while they’re on Vancouver Island.
“So that they know what communities and businesses expect of them as they come,” Everett says, adding the tourism board has worked with businesses for months on safety protocols and standards.
He says Vancouver Island has the mildest winter climate in Canada, which may be appealing especially to those on the east coast.
“I think the reality of the pandemic as it affects tourism is that until the borders open up, things are going to be pretty tough for businesses. And we know that people still want to snowbird … so they’re looking for options. The Island is the perfect place, we have the most temperate climate in Canada, and it’s a great place to come,” Everett says, adding the tourism board is looking to amplify Dr. Bonnie Henry’s messaging when it comes to respecting communities you’re visiting, and knowing which ones are off limits.
There’s even an aspect of innovation throughout this campaign, he notes, with some properties offering travellers options like RV parking when they normally wouldn’t do so, for example.
“There’s lots of properties and lots of corners of the Island that typically wouldn’t be travelled to,” Everett explains. “Even a place like Victoria has lots of availability right now, and snowbirds just need to know what they have access to.”
The Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to all non-essential traffic as concern continues over COVID-19 cases south of the border.
-With files from Sonia Aslam