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Lack of international visitors a chance for Canadians to see nation’s


As the majority of national parks opened earlier this month, Nick Schlachter was waiting in his truck at the front of the line to access Banff National Park’s Lake Minnewanka, a picturesque glacial lake surrounded by towering mountains and lush forests near Banff, Alta.

He couldn’t wait for the park to open for the first time this season and get his boat on the open water.

“It’s been a long three months. Everyone has been cooped up, and it’s time to get out and get some lake trout,” said Schlachter, who lives in Canmore, Alta. “It’s time to go.”

The lake is a tourist magnet, but this year, the water will be noticeably quieter, as will the nearby bike paths, cafe and campground.

With international visitors staying away due to the pandemic and border restrictions, this will be a summer like no other and presents an opportunity for Canadians to rediscover the many world-renowned attractions and locations, such as Banff, Montreal and Victoria. 

Nick Schlachter, right, of Canmore, Alta., prepares his boat before putting it in the water. He couldn’t wait to get out on Lake Minnewanka. (Dave Rae/CBC)

Montreal and Victoria

Normally, the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal are jammed this time of year with slow-moving crowds of people stopping to snap photos with tablets and selfie sticks held high in the air.

The thought of navigating so many people is a strong deterrent for most locals to keep out of the area. Now, it might be refreshing to take a stroll through the greystone buildings and appreciate the Notre-Dame Basilica and other historical beauties. 

The same can be said for cities such as Victoria, which won’t see temporary population spikes as cruise ships dock and hundreds of thousands of travellers pour out into the city.

In Old Montreal, restaurants and bars do business on the sidewalks, with physical distancing measures implemented through furniture placement and markings on the ground. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

 

Enjoy tourist-free situation

No matter the location, with so much space and privacy, this summer could be much more romantic, too, said travel blogger Karen Ung, pointing to how restaurants and campgrounds have reduced capacity.

She plans to take advantage of the tourist-free situation by spending more time in Banff than usual and exploring the Icefields Parkway, north of Lake Louise, which usually fills up with tourists who want to explore the glaciers.

“There’s so much here, and people come from all over the world to see it,” she said.

“It’s often way too packed for us to enjoy it, so I really avoid those places in the summer.”

Lake Minnewanka in Alberta is a short drive outside the Banff townsite. (Dave Rae/CBC)

Steep price for tourist sector

Earlier this spring, Banff’s mayor acknowledged it was “odd” for a community that solely relies on the tourism industry to tell people to stay away because of the pandemic.

Now, the doors have swung open. 

“We’re so excited to welcome…



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