LETHBRIDGE, AB – The local tourism industry is feeling optimistic as the province inches closer to being “Open for Summer.”

After 15 months of restrictions, Tracy Hamilton of Inspired Vacations in Lethbridge, says the phones are ringing and people are anxious to get out there.

While some are looking ahead to international getaways, she says the outlook for this summer is still a focus on domestic-based travel.

“My real word of encouragement is this summer, support local,” she says. “Let’s go explore those local restaurants and pubs, let’s stay in a hotel and do some different things. We’ve got lots of great things around here to really boost our own economy and our own local suppliers.”

COVID-19 has hit the tourism industry especially hard, locally and right across the country, and Hamilton says it will take a while to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

Hamilton made the remarks during a Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce presentation Tuesday, along with Shilpa Stocker of the Lethbridge Lodging Association.

Meanwhile, a new campaign to reopen the border has been launched by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

President and CEO Beth Potter says vaccinations are rising and case numbers are dropping so it’s time to talk about safety reopening the border.

She says the past 15 months have flattened the tourism industry and devastated the tourism economy in Canada and operators need time to retrain, rehire and market.

Public calls for reopening land borders have been growing steadily in both Canada and the US in recent weeks.