Travel restrictions

NL hotel owners and tourism operators hope after travel restrictions ease

Tourism operators in Newfoundland and Labrador agree that the province’s eased travel restrictions are a big help for the struggling industry, but some question whether it will be enough.

As of Saturday, fully vaccinated travelers no longer have to self-isolate upon arrival in the province, but travelers are still required to take a rapid COVID-19 test daily for five days after arrival.

“This is great news for us, this is great news for Newfoundland,” said Clarah Germain, Room Division Manager at the Alt Hotel in downtown St. John’s.

Germain said the move will increase the number of business travelers coming to the province. She said business travelers often don’t stay very long, so even a short period of self-isolation is a major deterrent for this clientele.

“It’s going to be a big help not having to. And we’re still staying safe because we have the rapid tests and some restrictions in place.”

A future still uncertain, according to a tourist operator

But for tourism operators who don’t deal with business travellers, the eased restrictions might do little to improve results.

“People don’t trust loosening it,” said Ed English of Linkum Tours in Corner Brook, a company that operates two lighthouse lodges as well as a series of boat tours.

“It loosens, it tightens, it comes, it goes.… [Travellers] I don’t know what the future will be.”

Ed English of Linkum Tours said the past two years have been difficult for the tourism industry. (Earth and sea)

English said last summer his hostels were at just 20% of normal occupancy and he said he was now receiving cancellations for tours that were first booked two years ago.

“We’re not going to get that kind of activity back,” he said.

As tourism trade shows gear up in the coming weeks, English said the provincial government should expand its tourism advertising campaigns as soon as possible.

“I know the fiscal realities of the province and the campaigns are wonderful. But they just aren’t important enough,” he said.

Ed English’s flagship hostel on Quirpon Island. He said he had seen only 20% of normal occupancy since the pandemic began. (Earth and sea)

Despite his concerns, English said the recently eased restrictions are “absolutely essential” for the industry. He said he had a lot of good feelings from potential tourists and there was pent-up demand for trips.

“If people are sitting around planning their vacations, which they do at this time of year, they should know that Newfoundland is a possibility.”

“Locked and loaded for tourists”

Captain Barry Rogers said bookings for his boat tours were increasing. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Barry Rogers, the captain, owner and operator of Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours in St. John’s and Twillingate, said his company has stepped up its own social media campaigns to attract tourists to the province, and he believes the government should not be responsible for supporting the industry.

“All help is help,” Rogers said, referring to government support over the past two years.

“But at the end of the day, the responsibility also lies with the operator. I mean, we’re businessmen and we’re entrepreneurs. And you’re calling on all those experiences that you’ve had in your life and the reservations you have when there’s a change in the environment like the one we’ve been dealing with, and that will hopefully leave a lot of businesses standing once this is all over.

He said the eased restrictions gave him hope for a better season and he hopes the summer season will bring heavy traffic to his tours.

Barry Rogers, pictured here on one of his iceberg tours. He said the province remains a must-visit destination for many travellers. (Alick Tsui/Facebook)

“Our bookings are coming in quite regularly, even before Christmas, and are really increasing now,” he said.

Rogers said it was good that the province is now open to tourists as people around the world prepare to travel again. He said Newfoundland and Labrador remains a top destination for many travellers, and he hopes many tourists will cross the province off their bucket list this year.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is locked down and loaded with tourists, in anticipation of a great season. And, if all goes well, we are committed to offering our experiences here in a province that many Canadians do not know much So welcome, we’re waiting here.

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