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Posted: April 10, 2020

Please shut provincial borders to nonessential travel

Letter to the Editor

This is an open letter that was sent to Rob Morrison, Kootenay-Columbia MP

Hello Rob, My name is Michelle Nex and I live in Kimberley.

Together with my husband, and with the help of our 16-year-old daughter, we run a short term rental business, wherein we let out several apartments for short term rental through the websites VRBO, Booking.com and AirBnB as well as through private bookings.

We currently do all the cleaning and maintenance for the units ourselves.

Because my daughter and I are immunocompromised, we have been in voluntary self-isolation since March 14, only leaving for necessities, and, since COVID-19 began, we have been very proactive in restricting our rentals to necessary/essential travellers only, and only to those who, due to COVID-19, have been left without a place to stay. We have been very proactive in screening for such guests.

During this time, I have become increasingly concerned about the number of holiday travellers coming to our area, despite government pleas not to come. These people are either booking or attempting to book our units for ‘getaways,’ ‘to visit friends in our city’ and ‘to escape COVID-19’ in their own larger cities and are mainly from Alberta.

Non-essential travellers are putting undue strain on our already severely taxed resources, taking groceries when our shelves are already bare for a good portion of the time, and such people could also put an added strain on our medical resources, should they become ill or get involved in an accident and need medical attention.

Our medical system already cannot handle the all of the full time residents on the best of days, much less during this time of COVID-19.

Almost all of these people are coming from Alberta, either Calgary or Edmonton.

Those people buy gas and therefore touch the gas pumps, putting others who follow behind them at risk of contracting the disease. Those people buy groceries once they arrive, and therefore enter grocery stores, putting all the other shoppers and workers at risk of getting it, as well as using the resources needed for locals. And lastly, those people usually stay in short term accommodation, putting people like myself and my daughter at risk of becoming infected.

Many people are just not getting the message that we are trying to send, that they need to stay home to help slow the spread. They somehow think that they are the exception, or that they are so special that the rules do not or should not apply to them. It seems that their way of thinking is that if they “mostly” stay away from other people, then it’s OK.

Unfortunately, we all know this is not true.

I have been proactive and canceled all of those types of reservations and told them to please go home.

However, I am but one person, and I know that although I have canceled, they will still be coming and just renting another place to someone who may not be as scrupulous as I have been or have the same ethics that I have.

I am seeing my business, which was thriving and increasing in revenue, drop to a near zero level, and we could sorely use the income now.

However, my husband and I have chosen to make the personal sacrifice and comply with our local government advice because it is simply the right thing to do. But if others are not doing the same, and if the border is permitted to remain completely open unfettered, then the loss of my business will be for nothing, and many lives will certainly be unnecessarily lost.

I am attaching four screen shots of the messages from yet another booking I cancelled just last night at midnight, through AirBnB, to show you how people are behaving and to show you just how serious this problem is.

I am asking that the borders be closed, rather than restrict the short term rental business, because there *is* still a need for it.

We currently have a young man in one of our units who had originally planned to give up his apartment here in Kimberley and travel for the first part of April before going back to his job in the north. His apartment had already been rented out when the pandemic hit, and he had nowhere to go, so he came to us.

We also have a Telus technician coming to stay with us next week so he can do maintenance here in the area, which is obviously an essential service during this time. As you can see, there is still a need for short term rentals in our area.

But as such, we really do need to have our border to the east blocked to everything but essential and necessary travel to stop the holidayers from inundating our little towns and taxing our resources at this critical time.

I am asking you to please lobby the Canadian government on our behalf to close the Alberta – B.C. border.

If it can’t be completely done, then I ask that Highway 3, through the Crowsnest Pass, Highway 93, through Kootenay National Park, and Highway 1, through Banff National Park be closed to all nonessential traffic.

I believe the survival of our communities and the people within them here in the East Kootenay depends on it.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Michelle Nex,

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