Bella Coola Valley Tourism says no decisions have been made regarding the possibility of reopening in the Valley and says it is awaiting further direction from the community and the province.
“As of now, the province hasn’t set a date for re-opening tourism. We’re anticipating an announcement sometime soon, but we realize re-opening tourism will depend on new data, which may take a few more weeks,” said Bella Coola Valley Tourism President Tom Hermance. “Regardless of provincial announcements, BCVT will not be marketing this area for the 2020 summer season and the Visitor Centre will remain closed, though emails and phone calls will still be answered. The director’s first priority is the safety of the community and we don’t want to reopen tourism prematurely.”
The association’s website still indicates the Valley is closed for the 2020 season, but Hermance says he is receiving daily emails and calls from people wanting to visit the area.
“BCVT is closely watching the rollout for business and recreation guidelines from the province,” said Hermance. “Although BC Parks has announced a gradual reopening, it doesn’t apply to the entire province and Tweedsmuir Park does not yet have a re-opening date.”
As of press time Nuxalk leadership was still in full lockdown mode and non-essential travel to and from the community has been restricted. There has not been an announcement as to when local restrictions will ease.
The brand new summer service on the Northern Sea Wolf has also been cancelled, with the Nimpkish filling in on a reduced schedule for the season.
Situations are similar across the country, with the pandemic expected to further devastate the tourism industry. Last month barely 5,000 passengers arrived at Canadian airports from the U.S., down 99 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
Indigenous Tourism operators are being hit particularly hard, as the growth of the industry in the last 20 years has been substantial but due to the relatively young age of these businesses, combined with a lack of assets and headquartering on reserves, Indigenous tourism companies aren’t able to access services from large-scale banks and financial institutions.
“It’s a complete crisis,” said Keith Henry, the president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC). Indigenous tourism contributed more than $2 billion in direct gross domestic product in 2019, Henry said. The association is requesting more help from the federal government and requested a $557 million stimulus fund in March.
Tourism Minister Melanie Joly previously said the federal government is working on a stimulus package to assist Indigenous tourism operators.
– With files from Katya Slepian