Banff has offically reopened to Alberta tourists two months after declaring a local state of emergency.
The mayor of Banff says the idyllic mountain town is once again welcoming tourists from Alberta after the Covid-19 pandemic shut down their tourism economy.
Karen Sorenson talking to Globla News thanked Calgarians and residents in neighbouring communities for respecting the town’s request that visitors stay away as they worked to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We needed time to prepare and we’re feeling really good about that now,” Sorenson said. “We are ready to welcome visitors back.”
The Town of Banff declared a state of local emergency in mid-March due to COVID-19, imposing restrictions on local businesses and organizations.
Since then, Sorenson said they had been trying to limit the number of visitors to the community.
However, on Tuesday, she said people can now “get in their cars and come” to the town.
She clarified that Banff National Park won’t have any services available until early June, and it’s just the town of Banff that is open for business.
Sorenson said some, but not all, of the hotels and shops in Banff are open.
“We recommend that people call first and that they’re very well prepared,” Sorenson said, adding that visitors are asked to bring their own masks and sanitizer.
“We feel we are prepared to allow for great social distancing but we will be monitoring it and we don’t want to take a step back,” Sorenson added.
“And of course, if you’re not feeling well, please do not come.”
Sorenson acknowledged that restrictions put in place in Banff and throughout Alberta due to COVID-19 have impacted the town’s tourism industry.
“Looking further down the road as to what tourism will look like, more than 50 per cent of our visitors come from outside of Canada, so regardless of the fact that we are welcoming people, it’s going to be a very different Banff this summer.
Visitors to Banff can expect some changes in traffic this spring and summer.
Banff Avenue is currently being repaved between Buffalo Street and Wolf Street and from Badger Street to the town boundary.
Work is expected to wrap up by May 29, but the Banff.ca website warns the repaving is weather dependent and could potentially last longer.
In addition, Sorenson revealed Tuesday there will be long-term closures on Banff Avenue later this year.
“Council just made a decision yesterday that they will be closing our 100 block and 200 block of Banff Avenue to vehicular traffic for this summer,” Sorenson added. “That won’t start until June 5 and will go until September.”
She said the intention of the closure is to give “lots of space for social distancing and for pedestrian flow.”
More than 4 million people visit Banff National Park every year, and almost all of them visit the Town of Banff.