Moncton prepares to welcome Islanders back after months of travel restrictions
'There is a long-standing relationship between...Islanders and the Moncton area'
As the Atlantic bubble comes into effect on July 3, businesses in Moncton, N.B., are preparing to welcome Islanders back to the province.
Islanders and those from northern Nova Scotia are critical to the Moncton area's business community, says John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton.
"We've certainly missed all those Islanders at the Costco and the Bass Pro Shops and Champlain Place," he said.
"There is a long-standing relationship between, you know, Islanders and the Moncton area in terms of retail and tourism."
Wishart said the local economy has been suffering as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
'We're trying all sorts of things here'
"We're anxious to see the start of this Atlantic bubble because we think that it's time and I think all four provinces can certainly benefit from it," he said.
Walking along the city's streets has been a different experience following months of closures, Wishart said.
"I took a walk along Main Street this week and it was sad to see some of the closed restaurants and retail shops. Some are closed temporarily but some are closed permanently," he said.
Wishart said he's pleased the Atlantic premiers gave businesses owners some time to get ready before the bubble began.
"We're trying all sorts of things over here, for instance, making a large section of Main Street one way, creating bike lanes, larger patio spaces to encourage people to return," he said.
"It's going to be, you know, six months to a year before we see the level of confidence return that will really sort of jump-start the economy."
Even as local restaurants and shops reopen in the city core, a number of businesses and office buildings continue to have staff work from home.
I think the Island can expect to see a lot of New Brunswick plates in early July.— John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton
"So that's having an impact in that you may only have 50 or 70 per cent of the normal downtown office crowd going out for lunch," Wishart said.
Moncton is ready, he said, to play host to Islanders once again and he believes a number of New Brunswick residents are ready to pack their bags and head to the Island.
"I think the Island can expect to see a lot of New Brunswick plates in early July. It's traditionally a place we like to go in the summer to shop ... and to vacation. So hopefully the Island will be equally as welcoming of New Brunswickers as we will of Islanders."
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With files from Wayne Thibodeau