Please come to Sidney, but follow local and provincial public health rules.
That is the core of the message aimed at tourists that Sidney council approved Tuesday afternoon, now to be shared through tourism agencies and associations as well as the municipality’s website and social media channels.
Council made that decision after receiving a report from Alison Verhagen, senior manager of current planning and recovery director, following a meeting of the municipality’s recovery task force.
“Providing a consistent message on how Sidney is welcoming visitors at this time in the pandemic would be beneficial to ensure potential [travellers] are receiving consistent guidance for their time in Sidney,” she said in her report.
Councillors took up the issue against the backdrop of British Columbia having entered what the provincial government calls Phase 3 of its Restart Plan. It permits tourism and travel within the province among other provisions. As such, it opens the door to two potentially competing developments: increased and much-needed economic activity through tourism – a considerable aspect of the local economy, already reeling from the cancellation of major draws like the Sidney Street Market – but also the spread of COVID-19.
Sidney’s messaging aims to reconcile these threads by noting that the community is “excited to welcome smart, safe, and respectful visits to our community.”
Travellers to Sidney from B.C. or other provinces and territories are expected to follow the same travel guidelines in showing respect to all local residents, businesses, and the community-at-large.
The messaging calls on visitors to follow posted signage around the community in keeping an eye out for physical distancing guidance and safety procedures put in place by businesses and local attractions to help keep staff and patrons safe.
Individuals with symptoms associated with COVID-19 or who have been in contact with known cases, are asked to postpone their visit.
The messaging also addresses the subject of international travel. “The Canadian border remains closed for recreational tourism,” reads the message. “International visitors are asked to dream now and explore B.C. later when the time is right. While the border remains open for essential travel purposes, anyone who arrives from outside of Canada must quarantine for 14 days.”
The status of the border is no small issue for a community with a ferry terminal that has been connecting Canada with the United States for decades. While Washington State Ferries had planned to resume its route between Sidney and Anacortes, Wash. on March 29, it has remained closed since March 17.
The smallest route in Washington state’s ferry system in terms of numbers, with 115,836 passengers in 2019 (or 0.5 per cent of the system’s total passengers), it is nonetheless of considerable economic importance for the Town of Sidney specifically and Greater Victoria generally, by serving as a service point for arriving and departing travellers.
As for the U.S.-Canada border generally, it remains closed for non-essential at least until July 21, having first shut down on March 21.
Council adopted staff’s proposed messaging with minor amendments by including language that captures the federal government’s extension of the Quarantine Act until Aug. 31.
Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner