Smithers welcomed about six times less tourists to the town than last summer, according to dramatic new statistics presented to city council. Due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus, the Visitor Information Centre recorded 171 people visiting in June, compared to 1,107 visitors during the same month last year.
“As a result of COVID comparing this year to last is pointless, but I thought I would send our numbers to you anyway,” Susan Bundock from the tourism administration wrote in an email presented during this week’s city council meeting.
Reporting on that email, The Interior News noted that “year-to-date, the total number of visitors was 350 — down from 1,760 at the same time last year — with the bulk coming last month.”
The statistics aren’t totally surprising. European and American visitors to Smithers have been virtually nonexistent. Air Canada hasn’t been flying to the town since the spring, and recently said that flights won’t start arriving until the end of August at the earliest.
With a bump of new COVID cases across the province, the marketing director for Tourism Smithers Gladys Atrill said she’s “torn” about wanting to reopen for tourism while also protecting the town’s health and safety: “Everyone kind of accepts health first. The protocols, I think, are good, what I’ve seen in our community in terms of the business response. And for the most part public response has been quite good.”
But, she added, “We have to give some opportunity for businesses to run or we’re going to see business failures.”