With tighter measures being enforced at Canada’s border with the U.S., two mayors in B.C.’s Southern Interior are calling it an opportunity for British Columbians to explore their backyard more.
On Thursday, the federal government announced that travelers transiting through Canada to Alaska can only cross through five approved border crossings.
Three of those crossings are in B.C.: Abbotsford, Osoyoos and, lastly, Kingsgate, near Creston. The other two are in Alberta (Coutts, southeast of Lethbridge) and Saskatchewan (North Portal, southeast of Regina).
The mayor of Osoyoos, Sue McKortoff, told Global News that she liked the federal announcement.
“I’m very happy that the federal government has put these measures in place,” said McKortoff. “And I hope that it’s easy to manage and to monitor. That will be the issue.”
The mayor of the border town showed some concern that Osoyoos was one of three B.C. border crossings that will allow Alaska-bound travelers, but noted it hasn’t been an issue so far.
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Normally, international travellers, including those from the U.S., account for a noticeable number of tourist visits to the Southern Interior.
According the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, there were 180,010 international visitors in July 2019 – a good number, but well below the 718,030 domestic visitors during the same time span.
And it’s those domestic visitors local tourism operators are hoping to see this summer, fall and winter.
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McKortoff is encouraging people to visit the area, but to do so respectfully, to research what they’re going to do, where they’re going to stay and to wear a mask when needed, stating “this is going to be the busiest weekend, and it usually is, of the summer.”
“You have to look at the opportunities instead of negatives,” said Creston mayor RonToyota.
“The fact that a lot of British Columbians are travelling within the province, within their regions, I think that’s a benefit that they’re learning what we really have.
“It is unfortunate that our out-of-town or far-away tourists cannot visit us, but the gap will be filled, hopefully, and people will discover us within B.C.”
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