Residents of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island will get to enjoy taxpayer-subsidized travel to New Brunswick once the province’s borders open this summer.
The Higgs government says it is increasing eligibility for the Explore NB rebate program to cover people from the three other provinces in the region.
“I’m so excited to announce that we will be expanding this program to our Atlantic neighbors when the reopening plan allows,” Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace said.
“We can’t wait to welcome our Atlantic bubble provinces to join us this summer.”
The program allows persons who trips comprise at least one overnight stay to claim a 20% discount on expenses of up to $1,000.
The region expects to spend $4.5 million on the program this 2021.
In 2020, people could claim expenses for just a single trip, though in 2021 several trips can be claimed, still up to a total maximum of $1,000 and a $2,000 rebate.
N.B’s borers have been closed to non-essential travel since the COVID-19 pandemic started in Mar. 2020, except from last July to November, when the Atlantic bubble permitted trips among the four provinces without isolation requirements.
Under N.B’s COVID-19 reopening plan, borders are to open later this month to people from P.E.I, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec regions bordering this province.
That will happen when 75% of eligible New Brunswickers have had an initial dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
New Brunswick will open to N.S residents and the rest of the country on July 1 if 20% of people have received a second dose by then.
Tourism industry hopeful
Carol Alderice, the Tourism Industry Association of N.B president, said the industry took a major hit in 2020 following three successive years and may not recover fully from the coronavirus pandemic till 2023 or 2024.
However, she said the rebate program and the province’s reopening plan both offer some reasons for optimism.
“We are hopeful, and I must say we are the envy of all the associations across the country for having a date of Aug. 2 to possibly go green, just like we were the envy last year when we were the first ones to introduce this incentive program,” Alderice said.
“We just have to be patient and hope that we recover faster than we think we are at this point.”
Scott-Wallace said improvements are additionally being made to the rebate process to ensure that claims are processed faster, quicker verification of receipts, and enhanced contact with travelers if they have submitted something incorrectly.
That is aimed at avoiding complaints from some travelers who said rebates were slow to arrive, and the procedure for receipts were unclear.
“We learned from that, clearly,” she said. “We heard. We listened. … We will certainly remain flexible in explaining issues with receipts, because I will say absolutely we want people to take advantage of this program.”
There were 25, 258 applicants for last summer’s program, with claims amounting to over $2.5 million. The province additionally conducted a homogenous program over the fall and winter.