Atlantic bubble brings hope to Maritime hospitality industry
HALIFAX -- Tourism is spiking across the Maritimes since the opening of the 'Atlantic bubble' in early July. With many visitors allowed to travel interprovincially, the Maritime hospitality industry says business is getting back on track, and bookings are beginning to fill up again – a sign of hope for the economy after being impacted by COVID-19.
"Since it's opened, we had more calls from locals, from Nova Scotia, P.E.I., even New Brunswick," says Bay Vista Lodge and Cottages manager, Saunya Leblanc, about the fortuitous increase in bookings at her New Brunswick-based business.
Cottages, hotels and Airbnb hosts have noticed a recent uptick in bookings since the Atlantic provinces opened their borders on July 3, with Maritimers exempted from self-isolating.
"It has been very good to us," says N.B. Airbnb host, Jay Tse. "Since the announcement, that day, within the 24-hour span, we had about ten bookings."
Many Maritimers are booking their weekend getaways – with the weekend of July 11 being the first weekend for visitors to have access to a pre-travel registration service to help expedite their trip.
In nearby Prince Edward Island, a new testing site for residents who are essential workers is being set up near the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton.
There is also optimism in Nova Scotia, where the number of visitors to the Halifax Waterfront has been steadily increasing. Tourism operators are hopeful that they will be able to salvage some of the summer season.
"I think people do want to get out, move around, visit around, visit their friends and family," says Segway Nova Scotia owner, Max Rastelli. "Halifax is probably going to be one of those spots where a lot of people are going to come to; there's still a lot to do and see here."
Those who are travelling through the bubble say it's a nice getaway – even if their destination is only a few hours from home.
"It's better than being cooped up on the island for so long," says P.E.I. resident, Jennay Randall, who is visiting Halifax. "Even though there is the caution of COVID-19 and everything, it's nice to have the opportunity to go out and meet new people."
Many say the bubble has offered a glimmer of hope during tough times.
"There's light at the end of the tunnel," says Tse.
However, people in charge of booking guests from out-of-province say, while the extra tourism is appreciated, there is still a financial hit from the lack of Canadian visitors from outside of Atlantic Canada who want to visit.
"Most of our visitors are from Quebec," says Leblanc, who is missing the revenue from her non-Maritimer visitors. "We do have some from Ontario."
Meanwhile, the testing site for essential workers in P.E.I. will open on Monday at noon. Testing will be available daily from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Essential workers will be given direction on how to access the service as soon as they cross the Confederation Bridge and are screened.