Brian Pallister defends marketing of Manitoba as travel destination during pandemic
Premier says Manitoba has to take balanced approach to risk, but can't close borders forever
Premier Brian Pallister is defending a tourism campaign encouraging people to come to the Manitoba during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, Travel Manitoba, the Crown corporation responsible for promoting tourism in the province, has been marketing Manitoba as a travel destination to western Canadians.
In response to some concerns raised on Twitter, Travel Manitoba said its marketing campaign aligns with current government travel restrictions and safety protocols.
Last month, Manitoba lifted the 14-day self-isolation requirement for visitors from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, and those from northwestern Ontario (west of Terrace Bay).
We appreciate these concerns. Our marketing continues to align with current government travel restrictions and safety protocols and takes into consideration the advice of the Public Health Officer, which now includes allowing visitors from western provinces and NWT.—@TravelManitoba
At a news conference Tuesday, Pallister said that while Manitobans need to follow health recommendations, they shouldn't live in fear.
"COVID's a miserable threat, so we have to stick to the fundamentals here. But we can't allow a continued shutdown of every aspect of our economy to threaten the very future of our quality of life," he said.
Asked if he would be OK with Winnipeg being named a CFL hub city for a potential 2020 season, Pallister said while he thought that might benefit the province, he doesn't see the return of legions of fans to IG Field anytime soon.
"I think that we're not in an unreasonable position to offer relative safety, and [if] by offering relative safety we can then advance our economy and our social lives, then that's a good thing," he said.
"But I don't think there's a day coming very soon we're going to have the ability get back in the stands and cheer on the Bombers to that next Grey Cup."
As of Tuesday, there were five active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, after five new cases were identified by the province.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, 56 new cases were reported from Saturday to Monday. Alberta also saw an uptick in cases this past weekend, with 54 new cases reported on Friday, 96 new cases on Saturday and 80 new cases on Sunday.
Pallister said it is important to note the percentage of positive tests, not the number of cases.
He added that there is a balancing act between health and economic concerns, arguing that there's equal concern about the economic impact of closing Manitoba's borders indefinitely.
"We have the benefit in Western Canada of having some of the safest jurisdictions in the world, so promoting Manitoba, I think, is the right thing to do," he said.
"So I applaud Travel Manitoba's efforts to encourage people to visit and come here, remembering that the presumption here is that they're acting safely when they come."
The hospitality industry appreciates the tourism push, said Joel Waterman, the general manager of Inn at The Forks.
"There's no big conferences, no big conventions, so we need to get that staycation business in order to remain viable in order to survive."
Business is slowly bouncing back, but occupancy is still down 60 to 70 per cent from normal levels, he said.
As guests gradually return, Waterman said his hotel at The Forks, like the entire hospitality sector, is taking precautions to keep people safe. That includes practising social distancing and making hand sanitizer available at every entrance.
"Tourism is such an important part of Manitoba's economy, and we need to get that engine moving again."
With files from Ian Froese