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Island communities prepare to welcome tourists again
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. -- Several communities on Vancouver Island are getting ready to roll out the welcome mat for tourists once again - even those areas that previously asked visitors to stay away.
Destination Campbell River executive director Kirsten Soder says her community, like others, has had a hard time with fewer tourists visiting over the past few months.
"It's grim," Soder says. "It's a heart-breaking time. This industry's seen a lot of crisis over the years between floods and wildfires and other things, but this is something that even impacted everyone more widely."
Campbell River is one of 59 communities in the province that received grant money from the province for their tourism operations. The city's share was $65,000 from the $10-million total.
"It's desperately needed, particularly by smaller destination marketing organizations that have no other source of funding," says Soder.
Meanwhile, in Tofino, Mayor Josie Osborne says the west coast of the island is also busy preparing for the return of tourists, but is waiting for BC's provincial health officer to give the green light.
"I think there has been some sense of nervousness and apprehension and really we're just going by Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice about being kind and calm and understanding with each other, and that's for our visitors too," Osborne says.
She also cautions that visitors to her community will have to understand that things will be different the next time they arrive.
"It's important for us all to be patient with the businesses that we go to and know that not everything will be open and the hours might be different and your favourite restaurant might feel quite different," she says.
Tofino is quite likely to see more visitors beginning Monday when Pacific Rim National Park opens to day-use visitors. The federal government made the announcement Wednesday that the west coast of the island is one of 29 of Canada's 48 national parks that will be reopened.
Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the ability to camp in national parks won't be available until June 21 at the earliest.