British Columbia’s tourism and hospitality sector believes it should receive more than one-third of a $1.5 billion COVID-19 recovery package pledged to the province by the federal government.
A statement from the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. says a coalition of more than 19,000 tourism and hospitality businesses believes the sector should be allocated $680 million to help ease the impacts of the novel coronavirus.
The association says the funds could save as many as 100,000 jobs this year alone and provide immediate assistance to businesses hardest hit by restrictions on travel and limits on gatherings.
“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,” reads a statement from the Tourism Industry Association.
The association points to data from 2018, suggesting that tourism and hospitality brought $20.4 billion in direct visitor spending to B.C., while generating billions more in goods produced and services provided.
The Tourism Industry Association is highlighting that the longterm outlook is bleak within British Columbia, stating the best-case projections would still see a $14.8 billion (69%) decline in tourism revenue from the 2018 numbers to $6.7 billion in 2020.
Association chair Vivek Sharma says existing stimulus packages aimed at overall economic recovery are helpful, but aren’t enough to revive a sector in which 300,000 jobs were affected at the pandemic’s height.
“The only way we can prevent generations of lost economic activity, jobs, and tax revenues is by acting decisively now with innovative and creative solutions that recognize the importance of this sector, which is the face and brand of British Columbia to the world and one of the strongest drivers of BC’s economy,” said Sharma.
Sharma says the association is proposing a three-part recovery starting with $475 million for no-interest loans or other supports to businesses with the potential to return to profitability over the next 18 months.
A further $190 million would help tourism businesses adapt their operations to health and safety requirements, while $15 million would support the accommodation, attractions, transportation, food services, and retail industries as they rebuilt shattered supply chains.
The association, which presented its proposal to the B.C. government last week, also recommends an industry-government committee to finalize funding and monitor program outcomes.
“For decades, tourism has been a strong and consistent economic engine for the province and significant source of employment in every B.C. community,” Sharma says in the statement.
“What we are asking for is a return on the investments the tourism and hospitality sector has made to the provincial and national economy over those decades.”