Greater Victoria tourism facing uphill battle against COVID-19 and homeless encampments

Greater Victoria tourism facing uphill battle against COVID-19 and homeless encampments
WatchGreater Victoria tourism is heading into a stretch of great uncertainty as COVID-19 and the homelessness crisis affect the industry.

The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit in Greater Victoria since the onset of the pandemic.

With international and the majority of domestic travel drastically reduced, officials in the industry say it has been a major struggle.

The majority of the visitors to the area have come from the Lower Mainland, but after B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry imposed new restrictions on the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Regions last Saturday, industry leaders are bracing for the worst.

“This was our one remaining source market and now it’s on hold for a while. Everyone understands why, but there’s no sugarcoating that this is going to be very painful,” said Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey.

Nursey says that tourism revenue is down 90 per cent this year and hotel revenue down 70%. Henry did not put a restriction on travel in place but is strongly urging against all non-essential trips.

With the industry facing great uncertainty, Nursey is calling on the province to become more adaptable.

“Right now we don’t see any kind of strategy. There’s no plan for innovation. We see other jurisdictions working on pilot programs and things of that nature whereas the reaction here seems to be just shut it down”

And just five days after Henry’s latest public health orders, hotels are already feeling the impact.

“We did see cancellations in all hotels pretty quickly after that happened,” said Hotel Association of Greater Victoria Chair Bill Lewis.

“At some point, even with the subsidies for the wages and even with some the government support programs in place, you need to have a certain level of business to stay open.” He added.

While COVID-19 is clearly the biggest the industry is facing, in Victoria, it appears it’s not the only one.

On Thursday, staff presented city council with a report regarding the impacts of sheltering within the boundaries of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA).

Within the findings it stated:

“There are 17 hotels within the DVBA boundaries, some of them reported directly to the DVBA that they had guests arrive, see the encampments and cancel their rooms, or heard about the encampments via the media or online reviews and cancelled their reservations.”

The main downtown encampment, at Centennial Square, is no longer in place, however, the impacts could be lasting.

“When you have a lot of online activity and people are looking for places to go even from within B.C. and they [hear] reports about encampments and needles and public urination, it affects their decision on where to stay,” said Executive Director of the DVBA Jeff Bray.



Ben NesbitBen Nesbit

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