‘We can’t lose more money:’ East Coast tourism operators brace for slow season, again

HALIFAX — It’s a whale of a problem: How to keep a boat tour in Bay Bulls, N.L., afloat without tourists.

In a good year, O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours would fill up a 100-passenger Cape Islander-style boat multiple times a day for a show of humpback whales, puffins and towering icebergs.

But with some of the toughest pandemic-related travel restrictions in the country, tourism operators on the East Coast have had to rejig operations — or risk sinking.

Travel bans have had a profound impact on Atlantic Canada’s tourism industry, a major economic driver that normally supports 9,600 businesses, 57,000 jobs and $5 billion in gross domestic product across the region each year.

The pandemic left many tour boats idled, cruise ships docked, hotels empty and buses parked. Some businesses have gone under; others have chosen to remain closed. Many scaled back operations, surviving on government subsidies and local tourism from within the Atlantic bubble.

Canada’s four…

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