The Tourism and Hospitality sector announced this week that they are seeking $680 million from the B.C. government’s $1.5 billion receive very package to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry.
In 2018, the tourism and hospitality industry included over 19,300 businesses, generated more than $8.3 billion in provincial GDP and $4.5 billion in direct tax revenues from $20.4 billion in direct visitor spending, and created employment in tourism-related businesses for more than 300,000 workers, half of whom service visitors in every community of the province, according to statistics provided by the coalition.
Unfortunately, as the only industry almost entirely based on the discretionary movement of people, the tourism and hospitality sector has been the most severely impacted by far by COVID-19 due to business closure orders and restrictions on personal travel, as well as the closure of international borders. Virtually the entire sector was shut down resulting in extensive layoffs, with many businesses having closed without the cash flow to re-open, and thousands more desperately trying to maintain solvency. Despite the commencement of Phase 3 on June 24, most sector businesses have only partially re-opened, with eviscerated source markets and severely damaged supply chains.
Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok, who is the Tourism Critic, says he doesn’t think they are asking for too much and hopes they get every cent of it.
In fact he says it’s a shame the tourism coalition had to come seeking assistance at all, given that the government should have had a plan in place by now to help this important industry.
“We’ve been asking for months, what is the plan for tourism? Other provinces have plans. It’s reasonable, what they’re asking.”
The coalition is looking for a $475 million Working Capital Recovery Grant, which businesses could access through no interest loans. They also ask for $190 million as support for adaptation costs incurred as businesses adapted for health and safety requirements. Finally, they are asking $15 million in support for developing resilient, B.C. focused supply chains.
“I hope they get it,” Clovechok said. “I’d like to see them get more.”
He says the industry’s problems are far from over as the U.S. border remains closed and international travel is almost non-existent.
“There have to be measures to make sure the industry survives,” he said. “And it needs to come sooner rather than later.
“I’m going to be optimistic by saying the government will step up. And if they don’t, shame on them.”