After 17 days of closure due to a wildfire response at Cameron Bluffs, BC’s Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure just announced that Highway 4 will reopen to single-lane alternating traffic at 3:00pm this afternoon (Friday 23 June). The highway will be open to all travellers including visitors to the region who have vacations planned on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The release from the government can be viewed in full here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023MOTI0087-001015
We continue to update our Highway 4 page with the latest information we have for visitors here.
Now that we have some clarity on the reopening, Tourism Tofino is launching a campaign that we have been working on with industry partners to let our key markets know that we are welcoming visitors to the west coast again. Tourism Tofino is investing in paid campaigns on social media and television, as well as serving digital ads targeting confirmed travellers to Tofino. Web traffic will be driven to the special landing page we have created for the reopening campaign on our website. An example of the creative for these ads is included above and we will primarily be targeting BC, Alberta, and Washington state. Tourism Tofino will also be launching messaging on our owned channels such as our website and organic social media.
In partnership with Tourism Ucluelet, we will be doing collaborative social posts and will also be sharing campaign messaging on a digital billboard at Nanoose Bay on Highway 19 (between Nanaimo and Parksville) that can be updated or changed at any time – initial creative for the billboards can be viewed here. We have also issued a joint press release to media this afternoon and will be taking media interviews to spread the word that the highway is open for visitors. View the press release here.
Our partners at 4VI (Tourism Vancouver Island) and Destination BC will also be launching a coordinated campaign around the Highway 4 reopening and will be featuring west coast communities like Tofino more regularly in their social media channels. They will also be amplifying Tourism Tofino’s campaign and messaging, and working with travel trade to ensure tour operators have the latest information.
Tourism Tofino will continue to monitor hotel occupancy, business revenues and visitation over the coming weeks to determine the need to continue this campaign into July. We are also planning an additional spend and push for our fall campaign to help drive visitation in September and October where capacity allows.
The primary message that we need to get out clearly into the world is that the road is open and so is Tofino. The impacts of the highway closure have been devastating for many of our local businesses and the main goal is to recover visitation levels as quickly as possible.
There are no government advisories for essential travel on Highway 4. Anyone can travel the highway with single-lane alternating traffic for any reason – including tourism.
We understand there may be delays getting through the affected stretch of highway, especially in the early days of the reopening. Travellers to the west coast have had to deal with highway delays due to the Kennedy Hill improvements project over the past few years, so we don’t expect this to be a major deterrent to travel. We encourage people to check the advisory page on https://drivebc.ca/ for the latest on wait times in the affected area.
An updated FAQ document from Tourism Tofino will be published shortly that businesses can use to help guide their staff with messaging in responding to common questions we are seeing from visitors.
The detour between Port Alberni and Cowichan Lake will remain open and maintained until Highway 4 is reopened to both lanes. We encourage drivers who choose to use the detour to be prepared and follow the advice outlined on this page: https://www.tranbc.ca/current-travel-advisories/
It is also important to note that several day-use areas managed by BC Parks around the affected area of highway (including MacMillan Provincial Park/Cathedral Grove) will be closed to visitors until further notice. More information on that here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023ENV0037-000995
We also want to remind everyone of the dry conditions and the critical need for everyone to be fire smart this summer. The last thing any of us need is another wildfire-related incident impacting our season. More information on that here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/prevention/fire-bans-and-restrictions/coastal-fire-centre-bans#current
Tourism Tofino continues to work with the Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and other partners to press the case for government assistance to businesses impacted by the highway closure.
For those who may have missed it, the BC Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement calling for support for affected businesses: https://bcchamber.org/news/bc-chamber-commerce-statement-impact-natural-disasters-businesses
We understand that one of the unfortunate outcomes of the drop in visitation over the past few weeks has been businesses having to reduce staff hours or even lay off staff. We have heard reports of staff who may not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) having left Tofino to work in other communities due to the uncertainty. In an attempt to bolster our workforce for the rest of the summer season and into fall, Tourism Tofino is also relaunching our workforce attraction campaign that ran in the spring.
Today is the last day for local businesses to take the Tofino Chamber survey around impacts from the highway closure. If your business hasn’t participated yet, please take the survey here by end of day: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CMZXB7R
Results will be released by the Tofino Chamber in the coming days and shared with government agencies as part of the advocacy effort for government assistance for impacted businesses.