The hard-hit tourism sector is thrilled New Brunswick is moving forward with its recovery plan.
“It was extremely exciting to be here already, ahead of the game,” says Carol Alderdice, the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick. “It is major to be able to open up the borders to Quebec and Ontario, there’s no doubt about it.”
The province shifted to Phase 2, which allows travellers with a single vaccine dose from the rest of Canada, at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Alderdice expects it will provide an influx of travellers to the province and some much-needed relief to operators who have had slashed revenues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, she says a full recovery to 2019 levels could take two to four years.
“It’s really exciting to be able to open up the borders and now we’re trying to get the Canadian and U.S. borders open as well,” she says.
A Moncton restaurant owner is also pleased restrictions have loosened, but says it’s a time for cautious optimism.
Jamie Hynes, of Hynes Restaurant, says they’re currently operating at about 70 per cent capacity.
While the restaurant, and other businesses, can now resume operations with regular capacity, Hynes says there’s no point in paying wages of additional staff if more customers aren’t walking through the door.
“It’s a wait-and-see approach for us,” Hynes says.
He’s hopeful travellers, at least from the Atlantic region, can return to his establishment to help balance out shattered customer numbers.
“Before (COVID-19), the ‘old Hynes,’ a bad day is like 400, 450 (people),” he says. “Now, on a weekend, a number over 400 is a good number for us, you’re jumping for joy.”
Welcoming travellers at the airport
There’s not much happening at Moncton’s airport right now, with few travellers going through and only a handful of arrivals and departures on the board.
Only 10 per cent of regular air traffic is currently flying in and out of the airport, according to CEO Bernard LeBlanc.
So, needless to say, they’re pleased the province has reopened to the rest of Canada.
“You probably can’t see it, but I have a big smile on my face,” he tells Global News with a mask on. “I think for us it’s good, it’s progress.”
Some airlines are returning over the next few months, but LeBlanc is hoping they can reach at least 50 per cent of regular travel by year-end.
Fully vaccinated international travellers and single-dose travellers from Maine are also part of this recovery phase, but depend on loosened federal border restrictions.
He says a quarter of the airport’s typical travel is international, so they’re also focused on national borders reopening to leisure travel.
“We need to understand what the plan is as well, so we need the federal government to give us a bit of direction,” LeBlanc says.
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