Who opens a new tourist attraction during a pandemic? Meet Canada's most optimistic entrepreneurs


Canadians desperate for new holiday adventures this summer will soon have some fresh options. 

It could seem surprising, given the surge in COVID-19 cases, but a number of tourist attractions across the country are getting ready to open their doors for the first time in 2021. 

For example, the District Wine Village is set to open in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley in June. The $25-million development will offer visitors food, live music, and a selection of wines from 16 different small, artisanal producers.

In Nova Scotia, new owners of the Cape Smokey ski hill are completing the first stage of a $100 million revamp, to create an all-season resort. The new gondola is set to open July 1, giving guests what's described as "gorgeous and unbelievable" views of the Cabot Trail.  

And in downtown Toronto, a unique attraction called "Little Canada" will soon be selling tickets to see a miniature version of the country.  

"The country's too big to build all at once, even in miniature," said general manager John Phillipson. "So we were opening with five destinations." Scaled-down models of Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, Ontario's Golden Horseshoe area and Quebec will be ready this summer, with more to come in future. 

Tricky timing

But what are these operators thinking? Surely a global pandemic is the worst possible time to launch a tourist attraction. Lockdowns are keeping international travellers away, and revenue from domestic visitors is reduced by coronavirus capacity regulations.

Beth Potter, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said the industry's revenue is down 35 per cent overall, and 500,000 jobs have been lost.