The summer of staycations

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While COIVD-19 may have put a damper on international travel for 2020, the announcement of an Atlantic Canadian bubble starting July 3 means summer vacation planning is well under way for many Atlantic Canadians.

People from all over the world travel to Atlantic Canada to discover the natural beauty, sights, and communities that make this place so special. This year, we all have the unique opportunity to do a little bit of exploring closer to home.

Tourism is vital to our local economies and for many, the idea of a staycation is nothing new. As we all begin to (safely) contemplate getting out of the house to explore, we wanted to highlight a few credit union business members who are open and ready to welcome hometown visitors this summer.

New Brunswick

For Hillsborough Golf Club, the season kicked off in May as golf courses were one of the first businesses that were permitted to open once restrictions began to ease.

“We had to hire some extra staff to make sure we're properly following the rules and guidelines for sanitation,” says course owner Jason Pugh. “I think most golf courses have been pretty steady and we’re no exception,” he adds.

Though a portion of their business on the green comes from the local community, visitors from further away also made up a portion, especially in the on-site restaurant.

“A lot of folks will stop by to eat at the restaurant on their way to the Hopewell Rocks and other places nearby. It will be interesting to see if traffic picks up once more people are travelling around this summer,” he says.

With the wide-open spaces a rolling green offers, golf might just be the perfect social distancing sport. But it’s not just traditional golf that has been bringing people to Hillsborough Golf Club.

“We added a disc golf course this season as well,” says Jason. “It’s really growing in popularity and we’ve been getting a lot of interest in it,” he says.

Newfoundland & Labrador

For Paul Trickett, owner of Rencontre Vacation Homes and Tours, the 2020 season is starting to shape up a little differently than previous years. Located on a small island accessible by ferry off the southern coast of Newfoundland, guests who make the trip to Rencontre East are already in search of something a little different.

“What we’ve lost in international or out-of-province bookings this year we’ve really gained in local Newfoundland visitors,” Paul says. “A visit to Rencontre East is like taking a step back in time. There are no cars on the island and the experience with the wildlife and the scenery that we offer really can’t be found in many other places,” he adds.

With a community of just 150 people, visitors don’t just get to experience the natural beauty of the island, they can also expect to meet the community and experience a different way of life. The main difference for this year? The frequency of the ferry service that bring passengers to the island, which is set to remain on a reduced schedule for the duration of the summer.

“The summer schedule typically offers more frequency, so this year it's about checking the arrival and departure times with the reduced schedule,” says Paul.

Think of it as a reason (or excuse) to spend a little more time exploring the fjords, waterfalls, and friendly locals Rencontre East has to offer.

Nova Scotia

Kayak Cape Breton has been practicing social distancing since before it was even part of our everyday vocabulary.

“We’re located on about 70 acres of land in St. Peter’s, Cape Breton,” explains owner Katie LeBlanc. “As a result, our guests have always enjoyed the ability to reconnect with nature while disconnecting from their phone.”

Because of the remote nature of their five accommodation options, not much has changed for the 2020 season as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

“The major difference would be in our cleaning protocols,” says LeBlanc. “We’ve started using medical-grade disinfecting products to clean our accommodations. But aside from that, it’s pretty much business as usual for us this summer. And it’s shaping up to be a very busy year,” she adds.

While international or out-of-province travellers have typically accounted for a portion of their business, local bookings have been up significantly this year as more people look to explore their own backyards.

Prince Edward Island

Business has been booming at MacQueen’s Bike Shop and Island Tours.

“Bike shops were considered an essential service when the pandemic first started,” says owner Kelly MacQueen. “We’ve stayed open and we really needed all hands on deck to keep up,” she adds.

As Atlantic Canadians are looking for ways to get outside, there has been a surge in cycling as a hobby or a low-impact way to get a bit of exercise.

“We’ve seen bikes that have been sitting in a garage for probably 50 years come through our doors this spring to get a tune up,” laughs Kelly. “We’ve also gotten to the point where it’s hard to get inventory from suppliers to keep up with the demand for new bikes.”

As anybody who has ever driven down a side road in the summer knows, cycling is also a popular summertime recreation and tourism activity.

“The tour side of the business hasn’t been as busy,” says Kelly. “Most of our tour business came from out-of-province folks. We booked a lot of tours with Americans and since our border is still closed, a lot of folks from the States have had to cancel.”

But it hasn’t been all bad news—the slow-down in the bike tours area has led to ingenuity. MacQueen’s Bike Shop is now Prince Edward Island’s largest supplier of disc golf supplies—a sport that is gaining traction as another way to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

If you’re interested in getting set-up with Atlantic Canada’s latest craze, disc golf, or if you need a little help budgeting for your staycation, your local credit union can help.