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We are staying in Banff for a few night. Our hotel is directly across the street from the local grocery store, which seems to be teeming with activity. They must have a strict occupancy limit, as I have seen people standing in a line outside the store waiting to be let in. Banff was one of the Covid hotspots last week, so things might be a little stricter here.
We just got back from dinner. Walking through the hotel, it feels like we are literally the only people here. We have only seen one other human, and that was the lovely lady sitting at the front desk. This feels like a post apocalyptic holiday.
Tourist stores are open along the main drag, the only things missing from the scene are customers. Every other time I have been in Banff it was in the high season, when people were everywhere and I couldn’t wait to leave. This is the polar opposite.
I’ve never been someone who looks forward to spending time in Banff. I’ve always seen it as a tourist trap of sorts, with inflated prices, way too many people and no place to park. I’ve never thought of it as a community, with families, and hard working people. My bad. Being here at an insanely quiet time has given me a new perspective.
THE NEXT DAY
With Heather at the hospital getting some elective surgery, I was able to walk around and get a feel for Banff in a shoulder season heavily influenced by Covid. Social distancing signs are everywhere, as are masks and a prevailing sense of caution. One gentleman sitting across from me at the coffee shop mentioned that he’d had one customer in an 8 hour shift yesterday.
“What business are you in?” I asked.
“The restaurant business,” he said. “I’m a chef.”
As this is a tourism based economy, Banff has taken a significant hit. Stores are open, but customers are in the single digits rather than hundreds. Looking down Banff Avenue at 11 am, there were literally three vehicles in my field of vision.
Things will turn around here, as it will return as one of the most visited spots in Canada. In a normal year, over three million people visit this place. Meanwhile, I’ve been happy supporting the struggling economy by buying an over priced toque and a much needed pair of hiking shoes.