More visitors but less anxiety on long weekend

The Victoria Day long weekend was busier on the ferries than the Easter long weekend, but there seemed to be less anxiety about visitors to the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast Regional District chair Lori Pratt said she thinks Health Minister Adrian Dix’s comments about travel to the Sunshine Coast in his briefings last week made a difference.

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Dix told British Columbians “as wonderful as all of those communities are … this is not the weekend to go” and encouraged anybody who did choose to travel to stock up on what they might need before heading out.

“Bring your own food [and] necessities there so you’re able to maintain some semblance of a bubble at that new location,” Dix said. “It’s very, very important to do so and be respectful of the communities you’re visiting and their concerns and their needs.”

Pratt said it looks like most people followed that advice.

“I think the majority of residents and visitors are taking it very seriously and maintaining physical distance and avoiding non-essential travel,” Pratt said. “I think it really helps to have Minister Dix actually say please don’t travel to the Sunshine Coast.”

BC Ferries, local governments on the Sunshine Coast and the Canadian Coast Guard also issued statements in the lead-up to the long weekend advising people against non-essential travel.

During his May 18 briefing with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Dix shared statistics from BC Ferries that he said showed “that while obviously there is travel going on in the province, people have been mindful of the guidance they've received.”

“I would say, just in general, on the long weekend … that we mostly stayed close, mostly we stayed apart and stayed safe, and we kept our highways and ferries clear for the most part, for those doing essential travel,” Dix said.

Dix said from May 14 to 17 there were 7,649 passengers on the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route, which reported some vehicle overloads in both directions last Friday. Over the Victoria Day long weekend in 2019, ferries carried 23,586 passengers to and from the Coast.

Passenger capacity on the ferries remains limited to 50 per cent of the normal load. Even at well below the usual traffic, the 7,649 passengers was close to double the number reported by BC Ferries for the Easter Long weekend, when travellers were met by signs telling them to “go home” and even a small demonstration in Madeira Park.

The reaction was more muted this past weekend.

Despite an email sent to local governments on the Easter long weekend, threatening a blockade of the ferry terminal for Victoria Day, nothing materialized and Sunshine Coast RCMP said there were no issues reported involving tensions between locals and visitors.

“Hopefully, now that we're reopening, we can all maintain and return to a sense of new normalcy,” Pratt said.

Several communities across B.C. and throughout Canada were wondering if the long weekend, the traditional unofficial start of the summer tourist season, might bring an influx of visitors.

Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers was quoted by Canadian Press as saying she felt that although there has been a slow trickle of visitors since Easter, they have for the most part been responsible about sticking to their properties and minimizing contact with locals.

– With files from Canadian Press

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