'It's critical': Town of Banff reopens to visitors after pandemic forces tourists to stay away
CALGARY -- After months of telling visitors to stay home and stay away, officials and business owners in Banff are swinging open their doors and welcoming visitors back to the mountain town.
Mayor Karen Sorenson says Banff is now in a safe position to bring in tourists to its hotels, restaurants and streets.
"My message is that we are very pleased to be welcoming our neighbours back," Sorenson said.
It's a different message from Sorenson now than a month ago, when people were told to stay out of Banff as COVID-19 cases soared.
But the mayor says about 85 per cent of people in the Banff and Lake Louise area have received at least one dose of the vaccine and active cases in the townsite are down to just three.
Sorenson is hoping for a strong summer after many months of business closures.
"It's been devastating for our community, our economy depends on tourism. We are a municipality within a national park in order to serve our visitors," she said.
"That's our reason for being."
A busy summer for tourism in Banff "critical" in helping hurting businesses survive, she added.
The town is still enforcing all provincial public health measures and has its own bylaw that requires masks be worn in some outdoor areas and streets.