Following COVID-19 closure, Britannia Mine Museum once again opens

Executive director talks about being in the tourism business at a time when tourism is discouraged

The head of Britannia Mine Museum acknowledged the conundrum of attracting customers from the Lower Mainland at a time where travelling to Squamish is being discouraged.

"A lot of people in Squamish earn their business from and earn their income from tourism activity — restaurants, hotels, and even the suppliers of sign shops. So I think we have to figure out how to do it together and co-operate and stick to the true values that are important to this community," said Kirstin Clausen, executive director at the Britannia Mine Museum.

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"But it's not an either-or. It just simply can't be an either-or."

Clausen's remarks come as Britannia reopens its doors following a lengthy closure brought on by COVID-19.

The museum announced that its members and local Squamish residents can visit starting  May 30 and 31. The general public will be welcome starting June 1.

Like many tourism businesses in Squamish, the museum relies heavily on traffic from the Lower Mainland and international visitors.

Yet, travel restrictions have essentially stopped out-of-country tourists, who account for roughly 20% of the museum's clientele, by Clausen's count.

Furthermore, advisories discouraging visitors from the Vancouver area can be at odds with the museum's other target audience.

"We are catering and wanting to attract primarily the Lower Mainland, so that is within an hour drive of Britannia and Squamish," Clausen told The Chief. "We're going to have to focus on that market, and the international market will come back in time when borders open up."

At the same time, Clausen is aware of the implications of having people from the Vancouver area come to town. Some locals who are concerned about cross-community contamination have been prickly regarding the subject.

"I'm forecasting my business model on a drastically reduced number of people, so that should help with how many people can the community welcome in total," Clausen said.

"We're putting restrictions on our size, we're putting in place measures that will have the site only having so many people at any one time, and all of those things will just naturally, hopefully, trickle down so the community isn't slammed."

She added that she respects the concerns people may have when it comes to potential exposure to COVID-19, and that while some attractions are indoors, most of the museum's exhibits are in open spaces.

"The majority of our museum experience is actually outside — so one of the safest places to be," Clausen said.

In a news release, the museum said there will be new COVID-19 safety measures and procedures in place, including enhanced staff training, limited attendance and tour sizes, advanced ticketing and reservations required, among other things.

"Our team at the Britannia Mine Museum has been working hard to get our operations back up and running so that we can once again welcome visitors," said Clausen in the written statement.

"We are facing challenging times, and the safety and well-being of all our visitors and staff have been at the forefront of all our planning efforts. It is important for our future viability that we figure out how to do business in these new times and I thank our communities, members and our supporters for their encouragement to do so. We ask that visitors check our website for updates and to practice safe physical distancing protocols to help keep everyone safe."

The mine will be running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Guided tours and BOOM! showings will be limited as part of new physical distancing measures.

The museum has posted specific tour times on its website, where tickets can also be purchased.

Visitors are asked to check the site before coming to ensure they have a spot.

*Please note, this story has been updated since it was first posted to add interview quotes from Kirstin Clausen.

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