Some towns, communities and regions who rely on tourism are eager to welcome B.C. visitors back with safety measures in place and Mayor Colin Baran said Kelowna is no different.
On June 24, provincial leaders announced the implementation of phase three of B.C.’s restart plan, which includes reopening movie theatres, resorts and hotels, overnight camping at provincial parks and relaxation on interprovincial travel.
“Dr. Bonny Henry has said that travel for British Columbians in the province is allowed and certainly that’s something that we are thankful for,” said Basran.
“Kelowna businesses are ready, willing and able to accommodate those who want to visit Kelowna. We certainly welcome them but we would just ask again that they be respectful and keep health top of mind, making sure if they aren’t feeling well to please reconsider, but that if they are feeling well enough to travel to maintain appropriate distancing.”
From a tourism standpoint, Basran said Kelowna welcomes any British Columbians to the community, which he said will go long way in helping the local economy.
On Monday, June 29, Bernard Avenue will close to vehicles to assist downtown businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure will make Bernard Avenue a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, allowing restaurants and businesses to expand operations into parking spaces and streets.
While Basran said the road closure will help local businesses expand capacity and bring in more revenue, he said there is still an element of the unknown that comes with the change.
“We’ve never done this before, so I don’t really know what to expect, but I have received a lot of positive feedback (about the Bernard closure) and people are excited,” said the Mayor.
“We’ve seen a positive uptick from businesses wanting to participate and so we will just have to wait and see, but I think generally it’s going to be a very positive thing.”
In terms of travel from out of province, Basran said the City Kelowna isn’t quite ready yet, but when the time comes, the city will welcome out of province travellers as long as they follow the same travel guidelines as everyone else in B.C. and travel safely and respectfully.
“Kelowna shines its brightest during the summer and so we’re happy to receive visitors (from out of province) as long as it’s approved by Dr. Bonnie Henry,” said Basran.
“I think for British Columbians and if and when it’s okay for people from across the country to travel here we believe that if there’s anywhere in Canada one should visit it should be here.”
With the move into Phase Three, John Horgan said restrictions and messaging have been amended for neighbouring provinces.
“If you are coming to British Columbia, be mindful of what British Columbians have done together to get to a position where we can welcome people from other parts of the country. Our focus, right now, is making sure British Columbians can travel freely and enjoy British Columbia,” he said.
He added that residents from the Yukon and Alberta are welcome in B.C., but hoped they would abide by the guidance of their neighbours how to act and conduct themselves while in the province for the safety of everyone.