VANCOUVER -- Whistler and Tofino are small communities where businesses depend heavily on tourist dollars. But for the past few months, COVID-19 had municipal officials asking people not to visit.

“The message through the spring was very much stay away, stay in your own community and really focus on flattening the curve,” said Whistler mayor Jack Crompton.

Now that the B.C. government is expected to lift non-essential travel restrictions next week?

“The message changes to please come visit, and do so in a safe manner,” Crompton said.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to it,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne. “We’re ready. We have a lot of very responsible businesses that have taken the time to re-train their staff, implement all their COVID protocols.”

Accommodations in Whistler will have enhanced safety protocols in place this summer and most hotels will be operating at reduced capacity.

“We are asking our visitors to adventure differently in Whistler, which basically just means being mindful and respectful of the current situation,” said Tourism Whistler’s Lauren Everest.

Whistler normally sees 55 per cent of its summertime visitors coming from outside Canada. In Tofino, that number is 25 per cent. But those international tourists won’t be coming this year.

“One of the things we hope happens is British Columbians really explore B.C., and we are so looking forward to welcoming people from Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and all of British Columbia to our town,” said Crompton. “And we encourage people to think about spending a little bit longer in our community than they would have in the past.”

“I think we’re gonna see the ultimate British Columbian staycation summer,” said Osborne. “For those people who haven’t been to Tofino for a while, this is their opportunity to come, and for me it’s an opportunity to go to a place like the Okanagan and explore our own backyard.”

Both communities expect bookings to pick up once intra-provincial travel gets the official green light, something the premier suggests should happen next week.

“I’m looking at making some bookings myself,” said John Horgan. “Dr. Henry will have more modelling (next week), and that will help guide decisions the Cabinet will make with respect to various orders around travel.”

Once the order to stay close to home is lifted?

“We know there is considerable, pent-up demand from British Columbians for travel, and we are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Whistler,” said Everest.