Tourism industry presses N.S. to add dates to reopening plan
Industry leaders say visitors are booking vacations elsewhere and businesses can't plan properly
Tourism operators say they're pleased that Nova Scotia has a pandemic reopening plan, but they're asking the government to go one step further and make it more specific.
Megan Delaney, general manager of the Cambridge Suites in Halifax and president of the provincial hotel association, said the industry needs dates attached to the phases of reopening, even if they may have to change based on epidemiology.
"What we're asking for is a little bit of clarity there," she said. "Right now, people are choosing alternate destinations like New Brunswick that have a more clear, laid-out reopening plan."
The province announced its plan Friday, which suggests moving between reopening phases every two to four weeks depending on COVID-19 activity in the province, testing capacity, and hospitalization and vaccination rates.
Delaney said the uncertainty of that plan affects businesses' staffing and guest bookings.
"Even if the date has to change, it's just that they give a date that is the goal for each phase and what exactly that looks like," she said.
Dates could be general targets
Terry Smith, CEO of Destination Cape Breton, said tourism businesses on the island want the government to consider a harm reduction strategy that would protect people's health and the economy.
He was not suggesting specific dates for reopening, but said Nova Scotia could set general targets just as other provinces have done.
"We know that they would be estimated dates, and that's what other provinces are doing," Smith said. "We understand it's a pandemic and if those dates have to change, they have to change."
Mike MacKinnon, CEO of the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport, was unavailable for an interview, but he told CBC News that Air Canada has delayed some service to Sydney by a month because of the uncertainty.
The airport website said Air Canada service from Sydney to Halifax and Montreal that was scheduled to start at the end of June is now scheduled to start Aug. 1.
The government needs to reconsider its plan for the sake of the entire tourism industry, Smith said.
'Just looking for some balance'
In addition to business owners, 5,600 people are employed in the industry in Cape Breton and there are thousands more across the province whose "livelihoods could be in jeopardy with the vagueness of this plan," he said.
"Nobody in the tourism industry wants to jeopardize any health. We're just looking for some balance and a little bit of guidance so that we can open effectively," said Smith.
Destination Cape Breton and the province's hotel association wrote to Premier Iain Rankin this week asking him to set firm dates in the reopening plan.
The premier did not respond to a request for an interview.
Instead, the government made Inclusive Economic Growth Minister Labi Kousoulis available. He said businesses were consulted and Nova Scotia's plan should be clear.
"We know that Phase 2 happens in two weeks," he said. "We know that Phase 3 happens two weeks after that. So there are tentative dates, but we don't have the exact date pegged, so they can use that as a framework."
He said the government needs some flexibility to account for the possible resurgence of COVID-19, and the best way to help the economy is to control the virus.
"It all depends on Nova Scotians keeping the disease at bay and making sure that we do our part by going out and getting immunized," Kousoulis said.
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With files from Matthew Moore