The Covid-19 pandemic has created regional tourism hotspots in Canada as big cities suffer
International travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic have prompted many travel enthusiasts to explore local and regional tourist destinations. However, communities have been affected very differently by increased numbers of homegrown tourists.
At the same time, travel restrictions played a role in shifting up to 20 million holiday and leisure trips abroad by Canadian residents to domestic destinations. Boosting domestic travel has been at the heart of federaland provincial government strategies to limit losses in the tourism sector.
Not all destinations have been equally affected, however. There has been a variation in employment levels in the accommodation and food services sector in large Canadian cities like Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver compared with other small and mid-sized cities in 2020. Some of these municipalities are located on the fringes of larger cities, while others are in more remote areas.
In contrast, several destinations outside of major urban centres have benefited from the rise in domestic tourism to offset the loss of international tourists. However, not all of them have the same capacity to welcome visitors during the pandemic.
Some destinations had sufficient capacity in terms of space, accommodation and services. This was the case for many places close to large cities that offer outdoor activities and have been able to ensure adequate management of tourist flows.
Destinations in the US, UK and France have also struggled with too many tourists.
How to manage tourists
With the next travel season upon us, governments can use various strategies tailored to the geographical trends of Covid-19 tourism.
Some government interventions have already been implemented, and it’s important they continue even with the end of the pandemic in view as vaccination efforts go into overdrive. That includes government financial assistance programmes for tourism operators to help mitigate their income losses and enable them to continue to operate.
With government support, cities should also develop strategies to establish acceptable limits on accommodations for tourists and visitors. Such measures would help preserve the environment and respect the quality of life of residents. This could mean, for example, establishing a limit on expanding parking lots in certain commercial sectors or on additional camping spaces near tourist attractions.
To be effective, such measures require monitoring and control, and laws and regulations must be enforced, including fines.
The popularity of some tourist destinations during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought economic opportunities to many communities. These tourist hotspots can seize those opportunities while respecting the need to control the number of visitors. Efficient management of tourist flows is critical, especially when several regions are aiming to attract permanent new residents and new businesses.