City of Fernie welcome sign. (File photo)

Light at the end of the tunnel: Tourism industry looks beyond January

The industry is optimistic for the future, but pessimistic for January

Local tourism operators aren’t optimistic that much will change on January 8 given the current COVID-19 numbers, according to Tourism Fernie’s Jikke Gyorki.

The current orders expire on Jan. 8, with an update expected this week.

The orders effectively halted tourism by discouraging travel and banning gatherings, and Gyorki said that the industry remained set on battening down the hatches and weathering the storm that is the pandemic, saying that despite the grim situation for the industry today, there was still plenty of optimism out there.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom, but knowing that there is a lot of optimism out there for the vaccine, and knowing that as we get through the winter season things will improve again at some point … a lot of people are still optimistic about that,” said Gyorki.

Current sentiments were relatively dire however.

“Sentiments (in the tourism industry) are that restrictions aren’t looking like they’re going to change much at all for January 8,” she said.

“Obviously, numbers aren’t really going down, the vaccine is going to take a while, this new variant that’s popping up in the UK is something everyone’s concerned about… Obviously the case counts in Alberta are a concern for our industry and our community.”

Gyorki said that there were hopes that some of the ski season could be salvaged, with hopes for eased travel advisories heading into February and into Spring.

“But businesses are also aware that restrictions could just keep on going longer than that. The vaccine is a key thing, but one of the key questions is at which point will there be enough access and enough distribution of the vaccine so travel can start to open up again? …We don’t have answers for that, but it’s definitely something we’re keeping an eye on.”

As it stands, currently the tourism industry across the province is in a holding pattern, with advertising halted and businesses minimizing costs.

Tourism Fernie paused all it’s advertising in late 2020 as the numbers began to ramp up and the health authorities started introducing new measures.

“We can still communicate with our fans and our friends and the people that want to hear from us, and let them know we’re here and want to welcome them when they come back – at no point are we actively encouraging people to travel right now,” said Gyorki.

“Our role is to be ready when travel restrictions ease, and welcome people back.”

When restrictions are eased, demand (especially for Fernie) will be high, said Gyorki.

“The demand for people that want to come to Fernie will be huge.”

READ MORE: Tourism Fernie reflects on new public health orders and the impact on tourism



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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