WestJet brings together Vancouver Island tourism industry to talk safe travel restart
When more than 70 virtual guests gathered at WestJet’s second Restart Roundtable for Vancouver Island, it was clear that the industry from the Minister of Transportation, Rob Fleming to the CEOs of Comox, Nanaimo and Victoria airports to community and business leaders were eager to discuss the need to safely restart of tourism to and from the island.
WestJet is proud of its history of investment and market stimulation on Vancouver Island. Prior to COVID-19, the visitor economy generated a whopping $2.2 billion annually for the Island's economy, making tourism either first or second on the list of economic drivers in every community in the region.
COVID-19 brought the travel and tourism industry to its knees as borders shut and travel was discouraged. From March 2020 through now, for the most part tour operators, hotels, restaurants, conference centres, taxis and more have sat still and a large part of the population who are employed directly or indirectly in the industry continue to be impacted.
For many of the thousands of Islanders who have been waiting to get back to work, a recent announcement from the Government of British Columbia on safely reopening the province to tourism, was a welcome step forward.
“A safe reopening is critical for the cities on Vancouver Island, all of which have lost their most lucrative markets,” said Paul Nursey, CEO Destination Greater Victoria.
“We thank WestJet for the restart initiative; from hosting this meeting to investing in more than 255 flights to and from the Island this summer to stimulate travel and restart this important sector of our economy.”
“While WestJet continued essential service throughout the pandemic to Comox, Nanaimo and Victoria, we are grateful to have the Government of British Columbia’s clear reopening plan,” said Angela Avery, WestJet Executive Vice President. “Working from a well-defined starting point has allowed WestJet and Swoop to add six new routes to and from the Island this summer to stimulate travel and directly support the Province’s and the Islands safe return of its visitor economy.”
WestJet has invested in the visitor economy of the Island for 25 years since first flying to Victoria in its inaugural year followed by Comox in 1997 and Nanaimo in 2013. Over the past 10 years to the province's capital city alone, the airline has provided a 30 per cent guest growth and flown more than seven million guests to and from the island. This summer, the WestJet Group’s ultra-low-cost carrier, Swoop, is also flying between Victoria and Edmonton.
“Today’s restart roundtable was a significant milestone as we collectively work together to ensure that British Columbians can explore Canada and reconnect with family and friends this summer,” said Bert van der Stege, Head of Commercial & Finance, Swoop. “We are grateful to our partners who share in our commitment to the safe restart of travel and tourism within Canada and look forward to supporting the economic recovery of the region through our ultra-low-cost service to Edmonton and Toronto from Victoria.”