Last week, the Province announced moving into Phase 3, the biggest change is encouraging travel throughout our Province. In June, we saw an uptick in visitors, and even more so when the announcement came last week. From conversations with shop owners, visitor centre staff and volunteers as well as personal interactions, most visitors are concerned about being welcomed, about minimizing their impact while they are here, and are excited to support the local businesses.
I would like to remind everyone that patience and kindness need to be at the forefront right now. Our island businesses have taken a really hard hit over the last four months in an effort to keep their staff, customers and community members safe. Our local businesses are demonstrating a high level of diligence to health & safety practices while trying to stay afloat.
Island businesses also need our community to step-up and welcome visitors who were respectful and stayed in their own communities until the Province opened up for local travel.
We understand that criticism of tourism has been on the rise and accelerated over the last 4 months, but many of the criticisms fail to recognize the true benefits that tourism brings to all of our community and how tourism can be a tool for sustainability.
Destination BC, Experience the Southern Gulf Islands, and Salt Spring Tourism are working hard to inform travellers on how to be a responsible visitor in vulnerable communities.
Once again, we understand that fear and fear of change, are at play but each individual has the responsibility to act in a manner that makes them comfortable. Waiting your turn if you see crowds, keeping a 6ft distance, wearing a mask or not, choosing slower times to run errands etc are all things that are within our control. We can also choose to support our local businesses by frequenting them and being kind and thoughtful towards staff and other customers.
Travelling in BC may be a little different this year. We’ll need to take more time with planning, and be more conscious of our impact on communities—especially the smaller ones, when we visit. As a starting point, Destination BC has compiled 10 tips to help you plan and travel responsibly in BC this summer.
1. PLAN AHEAD
Take extra time to research and plan your trip in advance. Many businesses and services in BC have adopted new protocols, and changes to their schedules or policies to ensure your safety. You’ll want to become familiar with them ahead of time. For example, you may have to book in advance for attractions or experiences where you didn’t before, and transportation schedules, like BC Ferries, may be operating at a reduced capacity. Some businesses or outdoor spaces may remain closed.
2. BE RESPECTFUL
Responsible tourism means that the experience creates a positive impact for all involved–not just the traveller. Keep in mind that you’re a guest of your fellow BC residents when travelling, and respect the guidelines and protocols they’ve put in place in their community during this time.
3. TRAVEL IN SMALLER GROUPS
If you normally travel with extended family or with several friends, consider travelling in a smaller group this summer. Travelling with fewer people makes it easier for you to practise physical distancing in public, and may have less of an impact on the destination.
4. MORE TIME, FEWER LOCATIONS
Consider a slower travel pace this summer to help curb the spread. Instead of checking in and out of multiple destinations during one trip, choose one destination and one accommodation for your entire trip, and use that as a ‘home-base’ for exploring all the destinations nearby.
5. PACK ESSENTIALS
If you’re heading to a more rural area of the province, stock up with the essentials before you leave home (i.e. groceries). This helps lessen your impact on BC communities who may be experiencing supply issues, and reduces your touchpoints with communities who may have limited health care facilities. Even better: create a Clean Trip Kit, including hand sanitizer, soap, gloves, masks, and toilet paper. While some businesses and destinations may supply these for visitors, it’s not a guarantee.
6. STAY APART, STAY SAFE
Practise physical distancing and frequent handwashing hygiene to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Follow the recommendations from the BC Centre for Disease Control to learn about preventative activities, and talk to the tourism businesses you are visiting about the steps they are taking to keep you and their staff safe. WorkSafeBC now requires all businesses to post their new COVID-related health and safety protocols at their workplace for staff and visitors to see.
7. LEAVE NO TRACE
When exploring BC’s outdoors, always leave it in a better state than when you arrived. Respect local wildlife. Minimize campfire impacts and check BC Wildfire Service for fire bans and fire safety tips. Pack out what you pack in, and dispose of waste properly. These are just some of key principles of Leave No Trace, a set of seven guidelines for enjoying the outdoors responsibly while minimizing your impact on the landscape.
8. BE ADVENTURESMART
No matter what outdoor activity you are planning, you must be prepared. Remember to follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials.
9. BE CALM, BE PATIENT, BE KIND
Remember, activities may take longer than usual, or places may be at capacity when you arrive. Have a Plan B researched and ready in case your first choice isn’t possible. Be calm, patient, and kind, and remember, we’re all in this together.
10. SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES
BC’s tourism businesses are eager to welcome you back this summer and your support is more crucial than ever. Remember, with the border closed, our businesses are relying on British Columbians. For now, you have the province all to yourself! Make the most of it.