Nova Scotia

Atlantic travel bubble needed sooner rather than later, says Halifax professor

A Halifax business professor says action needs to be taken on an Atlantic travel bubble so struggling tourism operators hit hard by COVID-19 in Nova Scotia can immediately market themselves to tourists from around the province and region.

Premiers still discussing whether to ease provincial border restrictions

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday that a plan to allow travel within the Maritimes is still being discussed, but there are no plans for one yet. (Tourism Nova Scotia/Matt Long/Landlopers)

A Halifax business professor says action needs to be taken on an Atlantic travel bubble so struggling tourism operators hit hard by COVID-19 in Nova Scotia can immediately market themselves to tourists from around the province and region.

"We've got to reallocate quickly here and try to respond as quickly as we can to what's open to us," Lorn Sheehan, a Dalhousie University professor of strategy with a specialty in tourism management and travel, told CBC's Maritime Noon on Wednesday.

With international travel still off limits and cruise ship season cancelled, Sheehan said opening up borders in the region is one of the only options left.

On Friday, businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and gyms will begin to reopen in Nova Scotia, but Sheehan said the tourism and travel industry has taken a major hit that will be especially hard to bounce back from.

"People don't have to travel, they don't have to go to restaurants. So when we see the economy contract, we expect the tourism industry to experience further contraction than average in the economy," he said.

How the travel bubble would work

The travel bubble idea, floated by premiers in New Brunswick and P.E.I. would allow people to cross provincial borders without having to self-isolate for 14 days.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King suggested the Maritime provinces could reopen to one another as early as July.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday that Nova Scotia has yet to decide whether it will bubble with other Maritime provinces, but he said any plans should include Newfoundland and Labrador.

The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador said last week that he's not ready to commit to joining a bubble just yet.

But whether Maritimers will be ready to travel across borders is another question.

There are people that ... would actually get on an airplane right now if that were permitted.​​- Lorn Sheehan, Dalhousie University's Rowe School of Business

While new cases of COVID-19 continue to drop in Nova Scotia, Sheehan said research, largely collected in the U.S., shows consumer sentiment about travel is mixed.

"There are people that are willing to travel right now that would actually get on an airplane right now if that were permitted," he said, adding those people are typically younger.

Dalhousie University professor Lorn Sheehan says spending on restaurants and travel is discretionary and could be down with so many people out of work during the pandemic. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

There are also people at the other end of the spectrum who won't board an airplane even when the government gives the go-ahead, Sheehan said.

Still, months into the pandemic, Sheehan said the economic risk of COVID-19 has now overshadowed the health risk for many people.

With files from CBC's Maritime Noon

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