National Tourism Week has a different vibe this year.

It starts on Monday and usually signals the kickoff of the tourist season.

But the CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island is asking islanders to stay off the ferries and support island tourism businesses.

With travel restrictions in place, Anthony Everett says we should see this as a chance to explore tourism opportunities in their own backyard, whether it be adventure tourism attractions, restaurants, campgrounds or arts and culture activities. 

 “People should get out and enjoy the wide variety of tourist and hospitality opportunities, but let’s do it in a manner that is safe, smart and supports local businesses,”  Anthony says. 

“For over a year, tourism operators have demonstrated their resilience, but for many it’s been an ongoing struggle to keep their head above water and they need our help, now more than ever.”

Tourism Vancouver Island says through the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, they’ve supported more than 440 operators – providing them access to experts in health and safety, human resources, finance and strategic planning, and digital marketing services. 

The total number of contacts between the Resiliency Network and businesses, within the five regions over the past 14 months, totals more than 38,000.

As much as support for operators getting through today is a priority, the region is also working to ensure a post-COVID tourism economy that is as strong as possible, according to Tourism Vancouver Island.

Through the Targeted Regional Tourism Initiative, five new destination and tourism infrastructure developments are underway in the region with support from the province. 

Initiatives include revitalizing downtown cores to entice visitors and encourage them to stay longer, cleaning up shores with marine waste collectors, building a world-class mountain biking destination, and creating awareness of territorial recognition for Indigenous communities.

Until measures intended to protect us all are relaxed, Everett says all B.C.’ers can play their part by following the advice of public health officials. 

He’s also encouraging people to support an initiative by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and sign a pledge to travel domestically when it is safe to do so, “in support of businesses in this country that will need help in rebuilding the country’s tourism economy.”