Visitors Center along Hwy 5 to the town of Valemount, B.C., with the Cariboo Mountain range in background. (Village of Valemount/Wikimedia Commons)

Visitors Center along Hwy 5 to the town of Valemount, B.C., with the Cariboo Mountain range in background. (Village of Valemount/Wikimedia Commons)

Northern communities welcome tourists as province opens to in-B.C. travellers

Officials have asked British Columbians to be careful as they travel this summer

  • Jul. 6, 2020 6:00 a.m.

By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat

More than a month-and-a-half after the government began reopening sectors of the economy, the Premier and B.C.’s top medical officer announced it was safe enough to support local businesses and travel around the province.

“We found a balance of increasing our contacts and doing it in a way that’s safe,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “We need to keep this balance for the coming months until we have an effective vaccine or treatment.”

On June 24, the government announced the province could move into Phase 3 of the restart. All accommodations, tourism operators, movie theatres, restaurants, bars, and retail outlets could open provided they conformed to public health and WorkSafe BC protocols.

The same day of the Phase 3 announcement, the Village of Valemount declared itself officially open for business.

“Welcome back to our community and surrounding area,” said Mayor Owen Torgerson. “The mountains are ready for you.”

Crowds over 50 people are still not allowed, nor are conferences and other large public venues. Even large family get-togethers continue to be discouraged.

Henry cautioned people to maintain safe physical distance from those outside their bubble. “The things that we have been doing will get us through this very unique summer,” she said. “And will get us through the upcoming fall as well.”

We need to remember we are not leaving COVID-19 behind, said Horgan. “It is here in every corner of British Columbia and we need to behave accordingly.”

READ MORE: B.C. ready for in-province travel, John Horgan says

It was all of us who flattened the initial curve, Torgerson said in a press release issued on June 24. “It will be all of us ­that will be responsible for the safe implementation, and ultimately, the success of B.C.’s restart plan,” he said.

Horgan says he hopes as British Columbians travel farther afield, they will be mindful they’re going into someone else’s neighborhood. “They should be respectful of that and practice the same procedures that they put in place in their own hometown, in their own community, wherever they’re traveling to,” he said.

We can all move at our own pace, said Henry. “Some individuals may choose to continue to limit their social interactions… and some communities may decide that they are not yet ready to receive visitors.”

Residents of McBride have mixed feelings about the reopening of the economy, said Mayor Gene Runtz. Businesses need more customers but with an older demographic and limited healthcare resources, villagers are understandably nervous, he said.

The decision of whether or not to encourage tourists in the community will go before municipal council, said the mayor, who in mid-March took the unusual step of publicly asking visitors to stop visiting the village.

“That was different,” said Runtz. “Everybody was scared to death.” It was early days in the pandemic when some snowmobilers hit town and were disregarding public health rules, he said. “These people were not respecting what was being said in B.C., so, we said, `If you can’t behave yourself, just stay away.”’

Still, restaurants and businesses need tourists, the majority of whom typically come from Alberta, said Runtz. No one knows how much of a gap in-province tourists can fill.

Either way, the mayor already knows how he’ll be voting in council. “I want to see people come back right now,” he said. “It’s time.”

READ MORE: B.C. reopening travel not sitting well with several First Nations

McBride is by nature, a friendly place, said Runtz. “If people start coming in, and if they self-distance, and are respectful,” he said. “I don’t see any problem at all.

There are a lot of places to go and a lot of capacity within the system, said Horgan, who is hoping for a holiday himself in the middle of August after the current legislative session has ended. “People should, if they have the time and have the ability, they should be planning their holidays right now.”

CoronavirusTourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Residents of Rural Keremeos, Olalla and Hedley are being asked to give feedback for the first Official Community Plan for the area. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Survey on RDOS Area G OCP open until April 30

The area’s first Official Community Plan is in the early stages of development

Nominally 'flushable' wipes caused one of Keremeos lift stations to shut down, damaging the pump inside. The Village is asking residents not to flush anything that isn't human waste. (Black Press)
Keremeos reminds residents not to flush wipes after pump damaged

‘Flushable’ wipes caused the pump to seize up and burn out

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

Valen a student of Coldstream Elementary writes advice for adults amid a pandemic.
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Elementary students share their wisdom to adults in unprecedented times

Mervin Mascarenhas giving one of his pens to Honorary JP-MP. Premier David Burt of Bermuda. (Image: Mervin Mascarenhas)
Kelowna man who made $90K ‘Space Pen’ recognized by dignitaries, sheikhs

Mervin Mascarenhas is the first Canadian to grace the cover of Millennium Millionaire Magazine

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine ‘disappointing’

‘The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,’ Adrian Dix said Friday

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Most Read