Street vendors in the ByWard market, a key tourism hub in Ottawa, say domestic tourists are returning to the stalls, even as market organizers brace for the delta variant.
With the Canada-U.S. border only just reopening to fully-vaccinated travelers on Monday, tourism in the city is still relying heavily on visitors from the rest of Canada.
Zach Dayler, executive director for Ottawa Markets, said overall business is down for vendors because of their reliance on tourism. But visitors from other parts of Canada have helped.
“We’ve seen a lot of domestic tourism start to pick up … We’re going to see the travel reflect the restrictions in the province the individuals are coming from. So [it] makes a lot of sense that we’re seeing more folks from the west come out this way.”
‘No tourists, no business’
Christine Mbonakuete, who sells her paintings at the outdoor market, said most of her buyers are from Toronto and Calgary.
Even with tourism picking up from western Canada and Quebec, Mbonakuete said her sales are down.
“We’re still trying,” she said. “It’s not like before … Before it was many tourists — they come from overseas, they come from America to visit our stall. But this year is different.”
Berhe Hagos has been selling custom jewelry and other African commodities at the ByWard Market for over twenty years. He’s used to seeing a large number of international tourists.
“Actually, they are the second buyers,” he said. “Number one is Canada. Number two, Americans, and then [some from] Australia, England.”
Market adapts to delta
The ByWard Market, said Dayler, has taken precautions since reopening in July under the Ontario government’s phased reopening plan.
Stalls are spaced six feet apart and offer sanitizer, he said. Vendors are required to self-assess at the start of their shift each morning.
Daylor said the precautions are designed to help people feel safe, as the delta variant spreads and American travellers — if relatively few of them — return.
Mbonakuete said she’s glad to be back at her stall — even with uncertainty around the delta variant.
“Now I’m feeling good, because I’m coming out everyday. It’s making me feel better,” she said.