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Cape Breton tourism officials aim to clear the air after businesses impacted by N.S. wildfires

Although Cape Breton is hours away from the wildfires on mainland Nova Scotia, the head of Destination Cape Breton says some would-be visitors to the island have ended up with the wrong idea.

"We're really concerned that visitors were getting the impression that it's not safe to travel in the woods in Cape Breton at this time,” said Terry Smith, Destination Cape Breton CEO. “When you see so much media coverage about wildfires in Nova Scotia, you may get the impression that everywhere is being affected."

Smith said some accommodations have lost business as a result.

"A number of operators have told us that they have received cancellations even for during the summer, so even for weeks and weeks away,” he said.

Baddeck business owner Graham MacKenzie said despite any hiccups the island's tourism sector may be experiencing now, he feels the Cape Breton brand still has plenty of momentum in the bigger picture and is optimistic there will be plenty of traffic come peak season.

"I think if anything, it's probably going to be busier than last year -- and last year was a busy year,” MacKenzie said. "They come back into the store and they tell us that they had no idea what it was like until they went through it, and a lot of people tell us they'd be coming back too."

Weeks before the wildfires, Destination Cape Breton had launched its second annual “waterfall season” campaign to encourage people to visit the Island and explore the woods during the spring shoulder season.

Now that the ban on activity in wooded areas has been lifted, they've relaunched the campaign -- calling it “Back Into The Woods.”

"Our hearts really go out to those - all of those who have been affected by the wildfire situation,” Smith said. “But at the same time, for our tourism industry, they've had a really difficult few years with the pandemic and a hurricane and now receiving cancellations from wildfires. So we wanted to restore some confidence and bring some business back to the island."

The “Back Into the Woods” hikes began Saturday with guided walks to Egypt Falls in Inverness County and Gairloch Falls in Victoria County.

Smith pointed out that lobster season and golf season, at Cape Breton’s many nationally and world-ranked courses, are also in full swing.

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