British Columbia entered Phase 3 of the COVID-19 restart in late June, which includes allowing non-essential travel, but this will be a season like no other.
“Although we are going to have a summer that’s better than we would have thought a few months ago, this is not a return to normal,” said Premier John Horgan. “This is an extraordinary summer that will require a continued effort from British Columbians."
But surfer Shane Richards says Tofino is uniquely suited to welcome visitors as B.C. relaxes travel restrictions and the spectacular West Coast community stirs back to life.
There have been no novel coronavirus cases in the Vancouver Island community, which traditionally welcomes 750,000 visitors a year.
Tofino essentially shut down for three months to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The population that can reach 10,000 people in prime tourist season went down to 2,000 this summer. But , Richards said, the community pulled together to get through the shutdown.
“Most businesses in Tofino are now open, from hotels, campgrounds, surf shops restaurants to tour companies. Every open business has spent months developing new operational plans on how to work safely. From what I can see around town, businesses are busy and people are following the new guidelines,” said Richards, chairman of Tofino Tourism and a managing partner in Surf Grove, one of eight surf schools now open.
Local and national parks opened at the beginning of June, including the renowned 10-mile Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
“With 50 per cent fewer people expected this summer, it is easy to find accommodation, space in restaurants and resorts with assured social distancing on trails and beaches,” Richards.
Among operators welcoming what Tofino Tourism said is a record number of local visitors this summer is former Vancouver Canuck defenceman Willy Mitchell.
With fellow NHL’er Dan Hamhuis and a Victoria developer, Mitchell bought the 63-room Tofino Resort and Marina in 2016 and invested $10 million in capital improvements.
“Last year, we welcomed 28,000 guests,” said Mitchell. He hopes for at least half that number in 2020.
He re-opened the restaurant June 15th and immediately hosted local first responders as way to thank them for their dedication.
Many guests this year from the Vancouver area take a 45-minute Harbour Air flight direct to the resort on the Tofino waterfront, Mitchell noted.
Richards said Tofino is the ideal retreat from the pressures of a pandemic.
“Our vast open beaches are an extremely attractive option for people who have been in isolation for months,” he said