Why a survey?
The Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership recently asked a few questions of local residents about travel. We wanted to gain insight about how we might work together to better manage visitors during the time of COVID-19.
When was the survey and did anyone respond?
The survey ran May 20 – 24 2020. Residents completed 232 surveys from Salt Spring Island (80), Mayne Island (64), Pender Island (61), Galiano Island (9) and Saturna Island (4).
Gauging local perceptions of travel?
A warm-up question invited respondents to share their perception of part time residents and visitors in their community. More than three quarters of respondents noted that seasonal residents have come to stay at their properties recently. Forty-two percent noted they perceive visitors staying with family and friends. Twenty percent mentioned they think visitors have been enjoying local paid accommodations. Another 15% thought that the visitors they notice say in their own boats, trailers and tents.
What did typical travel look like pre-COVID-19?
The Tourism Partnership did not intend the question to be statistically relevant but, rather, to gauge local perceptions about residents and travellers. The comments provide rich insight to difference within each community and among the islands. For reference, results of an August 2019 survey of BC Ferry passengers travelling to the Southern Gulf Islands revealed 30% of visitors stayed with family and friends, 18% stayed in commercial accommodations (resorts and B&Bs) and 20% stayed in rented, owned, or shared accommodations.
When should we share our cautions with future travellers?
The most useful information was gathered from the 224 comments. The primary question gathered ideas about possible traveler protocols for local travel to our islands. As we anticipate Phase 3 of BC’s Restart Program we have been thinking about how to share a message about the matters that are important to our communities. We want travellers to have access to this information. Phase 3 will open up travel a bit more than Phase 2. It will ease the restriction on non-essential travel. We will begin to move beyond our own communities within BC. Dr. Bonnie Henry recently advised this could happen in mid- to late-June.
Suggestions for a Visitor Protocol
The following summarizes the most commonly mentioned ideas from the survey. The Tourism Partnership will use them to create a suggested ‘visitors’ protocol. It begins to shape how we, as a community of residents and visitors, can help support the PHO orders, respect her advice, and keep everyone safe and healthy.
- Everyone must stay home if they are sick or have any symptoms.
- If someone has symptoms, they must self-isolate and must not travel.
- There are limited medical resources available on the Souther Gulf Islands.
- We have an above average proportion of residents vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Everyone must physically distance from anyone who is not part of their own personal bubble.
- One must leave public spaces if they cannot maintain distance.
- Install fun, attractive, branded social distancing signage in our community and on ferries.
- Visitors and residents must respect local business protocols, like sanitizing hands before entering and wearing a mask.
- The Tourism Partnership should get the message out that businesses have worked hard to welcome visitors back to our community and to ensure visitors that this is a health and safe place to visit.
- Travellers should bring their own travel kit that includes masks and personal hand sanitizer to avoid consuming local resources that may be difficult to procure.
- Keep messaging that “We can do this if we all do our part”.