Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok is the critic for the Tourism file and last week he went through the estimates process with Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare.
The estimate process allows opposition MLAs to sit down with Ministers to get more detailed information after the budget comes down.
Clovechok came away from estimates not entirely confident that tourism was in the best of hands.
“The Destination BC budget is down by $2.5 million. They say it’s only for discretionary funding, contracts and so on,” Clovechok said. “Tourism is a resource industry. You don’t disinvest. My riding is driven by tourism.”
And tourism has Clovechok especially concerned right now, including the effect the COVID-19 virus will have on it.
He says he felt the Minister was a little nonchalant about the effect the growing pandemic could have on the tourism industry.
“I think there’s a lot to worry about,” he said. “I give the Minister of Health all the credit for the way he’s handling this. But it’s going to have a huge impact on tourism.
“I think the Minister was pretty nonchalant. She says, we’re working with Destination BC, when I asked about the virus. Well, you just cut their budget. I don’t think the Minister of Tourism has a plan to help tourism survive all of this.”
By all of this, Clovechok means there are quite a few problems facing the tourism industry.
Not just COVID-19, but the protesting and blockades, the potential for a bad fire season, and the fact that Americans don’t traditionally travel in election years.
Put it all together, Clovechok says and people are just going to stay home.
“There are significant concerns. Bookings are down. You add in the Alberta economy with the oil industry crashing. When Alberta gets a cold, our riding gets pneumonia.”
He also points to budget cuts in BC Parks.
“We have 26 million visitors to BC Parks. They cut that budget by almost a million dollars. A tax on hiking boots? Really? We should be removing barriers, not putting them up. There’s a lack of investment in BC Parks. The reservation system is flawed. We’re going to get a reputation for bad service.
“When it comes to tourism, the way they are investing doesn’t indicate a viable industry.
“The Destination Marketing organizations are doing the best they can, but you have to invest in them.”