British Columbia

Americans travelling through B.C. are 'scared' of breaking rules, RV park owner says

Despite reports of some American tourists flouting rules surrounding COVID-19 while travelling in Canada, the owner of an RV park in Fort Nelson, B.C., says the few U.S. visitors she's receiving seem to be taking the pandemic more seriously than their Canadian counterparts.

'They're checking with you every second to make sure they can do this or they can do that.'

The Triple G Hideaway RV Park and Restaurant in Fort Nelson, B.C., is still welcoming American visitors. (Glenda Simpson)

Despite reports of some American tourists flouting rules surrounding COVID-19 while travelling in Canada, the owner of an RV park in Fort Nelson, B.C., says the few U.S. visitors she's receiving seem to be taking the pandemic more seriously than their Canadian counterparts.

"They're wearing their masks, they're coming into the campground with masks on in their vehicle," said Glenda Simpson who runs Triple G Hideaway RV Park and Restaurant. "They're checking with you every second to make sure they can do this or they can do that."

Simpson said the majority of people stopping to spend the night are either transferring military families or senior citizens returning to their Alaskan properties, and many are "very scared" of accidentally breaking any rules.

While the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel, Americans can drive to and from Alaska for "non-discretionary" purposes provided they take a direct path — which often means a trip through Fort Nelson along the Alaska Highway.

While there have been reports of Americans ignoring these rules, breaking off for visits in Banff, Whitehorse and even Vancouver Island, Simpson said the people she's interacting with are eager to please, even asking if it's OK for them to get out of their vehicles to enjoy the sun.

Simpson said she's gone shopping for several of her guests so they can stock up on essential supplies without stepping into a grocery store.

The most direct trip between the contiguous United States and Alaska still takes multiple days to drive. (Google Maps)

She also expressed concern that some people are trying to get through Canada so quickly they could be putting themselves and others at risk by driving for longer than is safe, and sleeping on the side of the road rather than getting a proper rest.

"Some are being told they can't stay at any parks or campgrounds, which I find really hurts our business," she said.

'Brutal' for businesses

With the Alaska border closed, Simpson said her business is down roughly 80 per cent, something she called "just brutal."

Kim Eglinki of the Fort Nelson Museum gave a similar report, estimating that in a normal year, 90 per cent of visitors are Americans travelling to Alaska. Without them, she said, there has been a major drop in revenue. 

The Fort Nelson Museum. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"It's a huge, huge hit for the museum and probably anybody else in the tourism industry."

Mayor Gary Foster said while he knows businesses are hurting, he also believes most people in the community support the border closure.

"I know the tourism industry has been just devastated," he said. "On the flip ... the last thing we want to see is cases of COVID-19 brought in from our American neighbours. And I know they're having a terrible struggle south of the border."

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca. You can also send encrypted messages using Signal or iMessage to 250.552.2058.

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