'Excellent news': Tourism, business operators welcome Atlantic bubble
Opposition parties supportive as they await further details
The tourism industry on P.E.I. is hoping an Atlantic bubble will help salvage what's left of a season ravaged by COVID-19 restrictions.
"We're very happy," said Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.
"I don't think it will be the season that anybody was hoping for or planning for, but it's a step in the right direction."
The Atlantic premiers announced Wednesday that beginning July 3, people travelling within their provinces would not be required to self-isolate.
"We'd heard that it would be early July, so I think July 3rd is great," Clemence said.
"Canada Day falls on a Wednesday this year, so to be able to open up by that Friday is excellent news."
Staycation marketing campaign
P.E.I. has enjoyed record tourism numbers over the past few seasons, and Clemence said the industry was anticipating another one before the pandemic hit.
The province launched a marketing campaign to encourage Islanders to explore P.E.I. for their vacations this year. Clemence said she realizes some will want to travel outside the province now that restrictions are lifted.
"That's great for the other provinces," she said.
"We certainly hope that people are still getting out and travelling and maybe going and visiting a lot of operators that they wouldn't have normally visited."
The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce said the Atlantic bubble will help businesses that have struggled during the pandemic.
We're confident that public health guidelines and directives will be adhered to and that this will be a win-win situation for both visitors and Island businesses.— Kevin Murphy, Business Continuity Group
"Overall, this is very positive news for our Island economy and small business community," said CEO Gerard Adams in a news release.
"We look forward to further details of how the bubble will be safely managed within the province and would also like to see such information released in a comprehensive plan that outlines how and when all non-residents will be permitted to enter P.E.I."
The Business Continuity Group, a non-partisan group of Island business leaders formed to help overcome challenges from COVID-19, said they support reopening the borders under the guidance of the province and Chief Public Health Office.
"We're confident that public health guidelines and directives will be adhered to and that this will be a win-win situation for both visitors and Island businesses," said spokesperson Kevin Murphy, president of the Murphy Hospitality Group.
Charlottetown airport CEO Doug Newson said though the bubble will not have any direct impact on passenger movements at the airport, he's hopeful it will result in a further easing of restrictions when it is safe to do so.
"Like many Islanders, we are concerned about the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and see this announcement today as a significant step towards starting the road back to economic recovery while continuing to ensure the health and safety of our residents."
Opposition parties react
In the P.E.I. Legislature Wednesday, Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker said the bubble is a "low-risk way" of opening the borders.
"Contrary to how some of my questions here in the house may have been interpreted elsewhere, I have never suggested that we need to keep our borders closed indefinitely," he said.
"I've always and I've consistently said that I want P.E.I. to open our borders but we need to do that in a measured, in a rational and in a consistent way."
However, he did have some concerns about how the details will be worked out.
"How are we going to manage the data sharing between our Atlantic provinces for people who are coming from outside? How are we going to verify that whoever comes here from other provinces have indeed done their 14 days isolation in the first port of call if you like?"
Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald said he also supports the Atlantic bubble, and encouraged the government to communicate the details clearly and concisely to Islanders.
"We need to ensure that we know exactly what's taking place to eliminate any fears that may be in their minds with … what's going to transpire."