Visitors become focus as new COVID-19 cases increase in Revelstoke

Despite the non-essential travel ban and Tourism Revelstoke telling visitors to postpone, Revelstoke experienced a busy holiday followed by a spike in COVID-19 cases. The city councillor now asks the province to step it up. 

The lift line for the gondola stretched past the bus stop and into the parking lot on Dec. 22. Photo: Sofie Hagland/ Revelstoke Mountaineer

It’s no secret that Revelstoke got busy with visitors during the holiday season despite B.C. declaring state of emergency and recommending against all non-essential travel. 

Even though the travel advisory specifically points out to “not travel for a vacation and not to visit friends or family outside of your household,” parking lots outside hotels were filled with trucks with snowmobiles and out of province license plates. Restaurants were bustling with life, the supermarkets were crowded, and on the big powder dump on Dec. 22 the gondola line at the ski resort went past the bus stop and into the parking lot. 

The numbers of COVID-19 cases in Revelstoke has more than doubled, with 106 confirmed cumulative cases total, Revelstoke had among the highest rates of new cases in B.C. per capita in the latest reporting period.

Tourism Revelstoke tells visitors to postpone

Tourism Revelstoke has been firm in their messaging on their website, social media, and emails telling visitors to please respect the provincial health orders and don’t travel at this time. 

”We have pulled all our paid advertising and switched our tone to encouraging people to postpone and plan future travel,” spokesperson for Tourism Revelstoke, Robyn Goldsmith, explained.  

However, it is up to the individual business what their policy is. Goldsmith said Revelstoke’s Explorer Society Hotel shut down because they didn’t want to encourage any visitation, and some private accommodation and Air BnB’s are only renting to provincial visitors. 

Overall, hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts were down 30% in revenue for 2020, Goldsmith said. 

”Fortunately, all of our tourism providers here in Revelstoke have adopted very flexible booking and cancellation policies, so I think people are finding some comfort in that.”

Before the second wave of lockdown, Tourism Revelstoke was doing weekly Zoom calls giving industry direction. Once a month they send out newsletters talking about new COVID-10 regulations, and they have also hosted an open house for tourism stakeholders discussing how to continue navigating the current pandemic. 

City councillor disappointed in travellers 

Revelstoke city councillor Cody Younker. Photo: provided by Cody Younker

Revelstoke City Councillor, Cody Younker, spoke out about the frustrating “double standards” he has been witnessing in Revelstoke over the holidays on his Facebook page Jan. 8. 

“The majority of people in Revelstoke have been wearing masks, social distancing, sticking to their bubbles, and not travelling outside of the community (for non-essential reasons). Yet we continue to see people flocking to Revelstoke to come and have a winter vacation,” Younker said. 

The city councillor admits that there are less people visiting than in the past years, but that there are still “far too many.”

“Trust me, the majority of shoppers in the store right now are not locals,” he said, referring to a grocery store where he’s employed. 

To discourage travellers, Younker suggests B.C. implements a mandatory 14-day quarantine once you enter the province as other eastern provinces have done previously. 

He also believes the provincial and federal governments “need to do much more” to support small, local businesses that rely on tourism. 

Mayor worried about older population 

At the moment, there have been no Revelstoke residents admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19. However, if visitors keep breaking the rules Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz is worried that our older population and our long-term care centres will be at risk.

No response from RMR and Revelstoke Snowmobile Club

Revelstoke Mountain Resort didn’t respond to several inquiries over the last couple of weeks to discuss the number of visitors the resort has seen over the holidays. Revelstoke Snowmobile Club representatives also didn’t reply to a request for an interview.

Exposures at ski instructor course in mid-December

In response to an earlier question about exposure incidents at the resort in December, Revelstoke Mountain Resort issued a statement regarding mid-December exposures at a ski instructor course. Here is their statement:

On December 22nd, Revelstoke Mountain Resort received notification from a staff member in Snow School who had tested positive for Covid-19. This employee had recently attended a 3-Day Level One Ski Instructor Course from December 14-16. This employee first started seeing symptoms on December 21, went for a Covid-19 test and immediately went into isolation. As per the Resort’s contact tracing protocols, five other ski instructors were identified as potential exposures and directed to isolate, but none of these individuals have shown symptoms to date. In total, the Resort had 6 ski instructors in isolation because of this incident, which represents less than 10% of the Resort’s Snow School team.

We are grateful that the employee who tested positive followed our protocols by arranging to be tested and notified their Manager as soon as possible. We are also asking everyone to respect the privacy of the staff members involved. In the event of similar incidents in the future, we will continue to follow the guidance of Interior Health and the local health authorities.

Sofie Hagland is the multimedia community journalist for Revelstoke Mountaineer. When Sofie is not skinning up a mountain or climbing up a rock, she is probably behind a camera looking for her next story. Do you have tips on Revelstoke news, outdoor life, or what's happening in the community? Contact Sofie at sofie@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text 672-999-3616.