ST. ANDREWS, N.B. -- St. Andrews has been welcoming visitors for decades and this is the time of year when they start showing up.

But during the pandemic, St. Andrews is telling would-be visitors to stay away. 

Brad Henderson, the mayor of the seaside tourist town, says it all feels very strange.

"For me to tell people not to come right now, I never thought I'd be saying those words," Henderson said.

The town is asking that visitors stay away from St. Andrews until the state of emergency is lifted -- with only essential businesses now operating in the community.

"What we experienced last weekend was a beautiful Saturday," Henderson said. "The weather was nice, and what ended up happening is we noticed a few parking lots like the block house in the town of St. Andrews was filled with visitors."

The typical tourist season in St. Andrews sees anywhere from 120,000 to 140,000 visitors and many of those are drawn to the whale-watching tours along the waterfront. But those vessels can't set sail until June 30 at the earliest, according to new measures by Transport Canada.

Whale-watching operator John Eldridge says there's no second-guessing from him.

"We hope that people will obviously do what's required right now, and stay home and be safe -- and to keep appraised of the situation," Eldridge said. "Hopefully, at some point this season, we'll be able to see some of our old customers and some new ones."

Henderson agrees.

"As essential as tourism is to us, the number one priority is public safety in this community," he said.