Those working in the local tourism industry are optimistic the region will see tourists begin to return this summer.
Many of the region’s local attractions have already reopened their doors; as the summer moves along, they will continue to expand their capacity and programming in line with the provincial plan to reopen.
“There is demand for travel, but there are still a lot of people hesitant about going out and travelling,” said Lynn Arbour, manager of tourism for the Heart of Georgian Bay.
“However, we are optimistic that with the rate of vaccinations steadily increasing, we will have a tourist season this summer. It just depends on how fast we go through the stages (of reopening).”
Arbour is focusing her efforts on promoting ‘staycations’ and encouraging residents in the region to enjoy what they have right in their own backyard. This is due to the fact a lot of travelling restrictions still remain in place.
“We have a big American tourist base. So, having the borders closed is going to impact tourism; as are the travel restrictions imposed by each province,” said Arbour. “Right now, it is very much just Ontarians travelling within Ontario.”
The Heart of Georgian Bay has a number of attractions that are great for a ‘staycation,’ according to Arbour.
The Wye Marsh reopened its trails, visitors centre and birds of prey exhibit to the public on June 14. The wildlife centre is now open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“I am glad the trails are open and glad to see visitors. It is going to be good to have a bit of normality here this summer,” said Mary Ann Milne, executive director of the marsh.
Four day camps being run by the Marsh throughout July and August have already filled up, to the delight of Milne.
“I was very, very hopeful that we were going to be running day camps this year. They are so important,” said Milne.
The display hall located inside the visitor’s centre will remain closed until the province moves to Step 2 of its plan to reopen. At that point, the marsh will also begin offering guided kayak tours.
Sainte Marie among the Hurons and Penetanguishene’s Discovery Harbour both reopened their doors to the public on June 30.
“We are excited to be able to welcome back visitors to rediscover our unique sites,” said Will Baird, general manager of Huronia Historical Parks. “Our staff have been working diligently to prepare our historical sites and outdoor parks to safely reopen for the 2021 season.”
Both sites, which will operate in a restricted capacity, will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park, located on Beausoleil Island, recently reopened for day use; and Awenda Provincial Park recently reopened for overnight camping.
While details have yet to be finalized, the Town of Midland hopes to hold several small in-person events this summer.
The Martyrs’ Shrine, which draws tens of thousands of visitors to the region every year, will remain closed for 2021.
ANDREW MENDLER | SIMCOE.COM