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Highway 4 closure 'horrific for many small businesses' on Vancouver Island


Tofino is normally a tourist mecca in the summer, but it was hit hard by the closure of Highway 4 in June, and now we know just how deep the economic pain went.

The Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce estimates the loss of the route between June 6 and June 23 cost Tofino $29.7 million in revenue and Ucluelet $14 million, for a total of nearly $44 million for the tourist towns.

Krissy Montgomery runs Surf Sister Surf School in Tofino and is a member of the chamber. She says the summer months are critical to the viability of many Tofino businesses.

“Most of us our operating out of about 16 weeks of profitability, so if you're taking three of those away right off the back, it can be devastating,” she said Tuesday.

Port Alberni’s chamber of commerce hasn’t calculated how much its businesses lost in June, but president Jolleen Dick says it’s a lot.

“The road closure's impact on Port Alberni has been horrific for many small businesses,” she said.

Montgomery says part of the problem has been staff leaving the remote area in search of busier work, including six employees who left her business in June.

“A lot of our staff here in Tofino is seasonal, or they're students, so they moved on, they moved to different towns, got different jobs,” she said.

The communities are now calling on the province to provide disaster relief funding for small businesses to address losses that rivalled the pandemic.

In fact, Montgomery says, so far the situation has been even worse than the pandemic, due to the lack of help from government.

“The difference being that there's no support, so I have found it personally more challenging than I did COVID.”

And the situation is only going to get worse. For at least the next four weeks, Highway 4 will be closed to all traffic from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except a two-hour window in the middle of the day,

Small businesses in Tofino are pleading for the province to create a larger window for tourist traffic.

“I’m worried some businesses here aren't going to make it,” said Montgomery. “We are definitely seeing slower traffic than normal — lots of cancellations – with people just not wanting to deal with the road closure.”

The province issued a statement telling CTV News it is working with marketing agencies to attract people to the west coast communities, and is encouraging tourists who can’t make it there this summer to book for the fall — a cold, hard truth for businesses that normally wrap up their peak season by then. Top Stories

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