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Staying local this spring break? Not everyone is

Tofino's mayor-elect shares how many out-of-province travellers have flocked to the tourist destination.

Spring break in British Columbia is well underway and not everyone got the message from the provincial health officer to stay local. 

Tofino's mayor-elect Dan Law was optimistic in the first few days of spring break, but that all changed. 

By Wednesday morning he woke up to messages and photographs from concerned residents that people were having beach fires and leaving behind garbage.  

“Last night, one of my friends counted 49 [fires] on one beach,” he says. “Of course, this morning, there’s garbage and debris leftover, quite a bit of it, so that was disheartening to see.” 

Law says it’s not the locals causing the trouble; instead, it’s visitors. 

“Spring break is on, it’s full-on here in Tofino. There are lots of people showing up and certainly, from the looks of it, there are lots of people from out of province, off Vancouver Island,” he says. 

Law adds it’s clear people are visiting from out of the province. 

“There are people who live here in B.C. and still have Alberta licence plates and Saskatchewan, Ontario licence plates. But they’re definitely showing up. It is definitely spring break, there are no illusions there. The tap is turned on and people are showing up,” he says.  

BC Ferries tells Glacier Media that ridership is down this spring break. 

“Our traffic is down about 34 per cent in vehicles and 54 per cent in passengers on the major routes, compared to 2019 numbers, which would have been a normal year for us,” says BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshal. 

A video sent to Glacier Media shows a full vessel from Vancouver to Nanaimo on March 15 at 10:30 a.m. 

“We are reducing the number of passengers we take on our vessels but our car decks can be full, so if you see a full car deck, it might be travelling for essential reasons or commercial goods going back and forth,” says Marshal. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry told people during a press conference that the rules remain the same for spring break and people need to stay local. 

“Focusing on essential travel if you need to go, focusing on staying small staying with your family your household,” Henry says. 

Whistler’s mayor says one of the best parts of living in such a beautiful location is being able to share it with the world, but right now isn’t the time to do that. 

“Please stay local. Consider vacationing in your own community... when people are here, safety is the focus of all the businesses that exist here,” says Jack Crompton. 

Businesses have been resilient during the year and Crompton says he’s been impressed with how they’ve done. 

“The whole pandemic has been devastating for B.C.’s tourism sector and it’s been devastating for us as a community. Our primary focus is getting to the other side of COVID-19 safely,” he says.  

Another popular destination ski resort says they’re focusing on local, and for the most part, people are listening.  

“We would probably be about 40 per cent occupancy right now,” says Michael J Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna.“There are a few people that have snuck in from Alberta and the coast and there’s a lot of mums and dads up there teaching kids how to ski for the first time.”

Ballingall says if people are not within 150 kilometres of the resort their reservation will not be accepted.  

“This year has been probably been the slowest year in our history. We cancelled $8.5 million worth of reservations from around the world,” he says.  

Back in December, the resort had a COVID-19 cluster and is currently receiving a special vaccine rollout for people who live in a congregate setting within a non-family household.  

“We are very lucky we’ve had no transmission in the working area of Big White Ski Resort. We had a cluster go through our staff accommodation. We got that under control,” says Ballingall.  

Tofino’s mayor-elect says they’re still waiting on their vaccine rollout. 

“We’re trying our best to be safe for everybody and then to have a few people kind of blow it... and we are a small community,” he says.  

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