During the weekly COVID-19 press conference on May 5, it was announced that people who are fully vaccinated, plus two weeks, can travel into the Yukon and are not required to self-isolate for 14 days.
If a person has not received both doses they still must meet the self-isolation requirements.
The news was welcome to many, but for tourism operators, it is only a first step to getting back to normal.
“It’s encouraging news,” said Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon (TIAY) president Neil Hartling. “Because the Yukon is ahead of the country with vaccinations, we don’t anticipate there is going to be much visitation to the Yukon as a result of that.
“But, we are very happy to see the switch from 14 days self-isolation because it’s at least a signal that there is a plan in place for a more targeted way of managing the health of the Yukon while allowing people to move across the border.”
Hartling described the announcement as a “ray of hope” but isn’t optimistic it will be a busy summer.
“The operators are still prepared for a very poor summer — really a terrible one,” said Hartling. “It’s not going to be good at all for most. The earliest we are anticipating any increase in travel is in the fall, winter and even that will be slow.”
Hartling referred to the news as a “soft opening” for tourism, however, there are many dynamics in play.
“Even people who are fully vaccinated, there is a good chance other family members are not fully vaccinated,” said Hartling.
As of May 10, the Yukon has administered 23,253 second doses of the vaccine and 26,583 doses of the first shot.
Hartling said he does anticipate Yukoners leaving the territory, which is a cause for frustration.
“We are well aware there are a lot of Yukoners poised in the starting blocks to leap out and take their travelling money with them,” said Hartling. “We’ve got a ways ahead of us until (the announcement) helps tourism, but we are afraid Yukoners are going to take their travel money out of the territory.”
Although people do not need to self isolate upon returning, travel Outside is still discouraged and travellers still need to adhere to other jurisdictions’ rules.
Instead, Hartling is encouraging Yukoners to enjoy vacation time in the territory.
“We have world-class destinations here in the Yukon,” said Hartling. “This is their chance, their justification of doing the great things in the Yukon. I hope Yukoners will seize that moment.”
Joel Hibbard of Nahanni River Adventures said it is a small leap forward for tourism operators.
“It is a first step,” said Hibbard. “For us, it will be too late in the season but it is encouraging to see government taking steps to help the industry.
Hibbard said he’s not anticipating much movement before August.
“The announcement is reason to hope and I don’t want to detract from that,” said Hibbard. “It will be a tough summer but we will survive. We rely on the international market to stay busy and with 40,000 Yukoners, that’s just not going to cut it.”
Lisa Mitchell, the general manager at the Caribou Crossing Trading Post said the popular roadside stop outside of Carcross also relies on international travel — especially from the cruise ships.
“It’s definitely a step, but for a lot of us we rely on tourism outside of Canada and we rely on the border being open and right now that is problematic for many of us,” said Mitchell.
“We have to be optimistic but cautious at the same time because we don’t know what is going to happen with the rest of the world.”
Mitchell said it is too early to predict if the new rules will have a positive impact.
“We are not really sure what that will mean right now,” said Mitchell. “(Right now) we are looking forward to welcoming Yukoners here like we did last summer.
“Whether or not we will see other travel from other jurisdictions will really depend on those other provinces opening up. Right now, with so many closed it doesn’t make sense for them to be travelling.”
Hartling said he has been following the vaccination tracker diligently and knows most Canadians have only received the first dose of vaccine.
A cause of optimism in the Yukon’s approach, said Hartling, comes from the latest industry research.
“One of the reasons it is a bright light is research is predicting that destinations that are embracing a vaccination approach to visitation are going to do well in the long run,” said Hartling. “They will do better coming out of the gate and better in the long run.
“That’s just a forecast based on research, but it is encouraging.”
Contact John Tonin at email@example.com